Monday, October 17, 2011

3 Ways People Can Cyberstalk You And How You Can Avoid It

Don't we all get that feeling that we're getting stalked on our way home from work or school? Well worry not, you're probably not getting stalked at all. Why? Because it's so darn easy to stalk you online! The fact is, unbeknownst to you, the cumulative information about yourself that you put online, can really show a lot of personal information that you might not be willing to share to strangers. Unless you enjoy kidnapping, you should follow some of the tips provided below.

3. Facebook

Facebook is one of the most brilliant and easiest ways to get information about someone. There's no need to take out the detective hat and look for little strands of information about you around the deep edges of the internet while Facebook probably has a gigantic treasure box of information about you, all in one place for viewing convenience.

The way people usually use Facebook to cyber-stalk or cyber-spy on people is usually the simple "friend request method" in which you simply request a friend request in order to get access to your photos, statuses, and inner thoughts. The people most commonly susceptible to this method are those who try to get 1,000 friends online to make themselves seem more popular and social to their real friends. However, even tech-savvy internet users can still fall prey to this simple con.

It won't always be this obvious.

But even without accepting friend requests from people you don't know, you are still in danger of having your personal information 'leaked' to strangers. As you may have noticed, one of the first things you need to when signing up for facebook, is that you need to adjust your privacy settings. But my, what are these menial privacy settings? Aren't they a bunch of whimsical meaningless numbers and words for tech geeks? No. Not at all. They simply categorized your posts into separate categories that determine who sees what on your profile.

Not Pictured: Privacy Settings

What all that nonsense meant was, in certain cases, friends of your friends can see your profile like a open book. What that means, is that they don't even need to bypass your "moral radar" and go straight after one of your personal friends.

How you can avoid it:

First off, the best tip for anything online, is to simply keep it to yourself. Do you really need to tell everyone that you "got so drunk last night at Joan's house"? This suggestion is possibly one of the best suggestions that can possibly be given to you. Even if they manage to get a giant look at your profile, they'll find nothing but animal pictures and weird references to old cartoons and animes

While you're at it, you can easily set your profile to only be viewable to your close friends, thus forcing all amateur internet detectives to pass your approval. But as a second line of security, you should make sure that all your information is only shared with the intended viewer. If you only want your friends to know about that time you vomited your brains out drunk, make sure your privacy settings is set to "friends only".

Then again, I want everybody to know how awesome I am.

2. Your Email

While your email gives you the ability to sign up for cool websites and contact people from thousands of miles away, it also can serve as a guide for internet detective to find information about you. One popular way of doing using your email against you, is searching your email on popular social media and gaming websites. For example, I found my old account on Myspace.

No, you don't need to know my personal email address.

Depending on privacy settings on those various websites, you may find yourself putting highly identifying information on profiles that are deemed public. For example, I found a few of my old statuses on Myspace, as a guest. That's right, I didn't even need to "request friends" or do some hacking witchery. I simply searched the email address.

How will I hide my love for cats now?

The best part about using emails to find people is that you can literally dig up old profiles of people's past that you can use against them. While they might not be the most recent and updated information, the profile is likely to be less maintained and less monitored, allowing someone to gather a heap of information from sites that you hardly remember, like

How You Can Avoid It:

The first thing you can do is as simple as 'not' putting personal information on public websites. Almost any website that requires some type of "profile" doesn't have to include your personal home address and social security number. Try to keep your information off the internet and off of prying eyes. Secondly, you can delete old profiles from websites, blogs, and forums to keep all your information at eye's sight. Nobody's getting your information without you knowing first!

However, as a first line defense, keep your email to yourself. You don't need to scream your email address around like pancakes and expect the worst being a few spam/prank emails. Keep it to yourself.

3. Your IP Address

Believe it or not, your internet uses a specific set of numbers to identify itself to a server or to identify itself to a user. Regardless of which, these numbers pretty much identify you as you. But where exactly are these majestic numbers and how do they relate to me whatsoever? These numbers are actually used every time you go on the internet. Regardless of checking your email or going on twitter, these numbers, along with other information, is thrown across the invisible grid of the internet.

But how much can these IP addresses really reveal right? How much can a 10 digit number really tell anybody? According to this free "Trace My IP" website, it can determine my internet provider, my state, city and borough, my nearby zip code, my internet browser, my OS system, my special search engine that I use, and even my screen resolution.

The only thing missing from here is my social security number.

As a simple 10 digit number, it can certainly tell people a lot about your general location and computer resources. But hold on a second, how do people obtain these "IP numbers"? Why, they can simply message you on MSN or AIM. Simply visiting a "bugged" website for a brief moment can allow the person to get your IP and identifying information. Depending on your stalker's sophistication, they might even be able to put tracking cookies into your computer, which can track the websites you go to and report back to the stalker.

These cookies alone can find out what websites you like, what you like to buy online, user preferences, and possibly hijack your accounts. Thankfully, this isn't a very common occurrence. So you can rest easy tonight. 

How You Can Avoid It:

Avoiding stalkers from stealing your password can be as simple as not replying to strangers online but as difficult as determining bad websites from the good. One of the first things you can do is something you've learned from birth, don't talk to strangers. When was the last time talking to a stranger offering you free diet pills ever ended well?

Secondly, some people can technically create special websites with little trackers embedded inside of dead half-decent blogs that can be used to secretly trick the information out of you. While this is almost unavoidable at one point, allow me to remind you that thousands if not millions of people live around you. It's unlikely that a simple vague "hometown" is going to narrow you down to a few people. The only thing "stalkers" can use this information against you, is probably to spook you out. I mean, wouldn't it be creepy if someone knew which internet browser you use, which OS system you have, your search engine, and where you vaguely live while implying that they know more?

"This "kDog1952" appears to know that I live in the New York district along with a million other people. I guess I have to give him my credit card numbers."

Along with all the information possibly gathered from these methods, stalkers can easily gather a bundle of information about you. The reason you should be concerned, is that they can find highly personal information from simply watching your Facebook statuses for a few weeks, waiting for you to have a personal outburst to find out more about you. If they find that your profile is locked down like a maximum security prison, they can easily find your close family members with your last name, and close friends of yours as "filters" to push out all the unrelated John Doe's before finding the ones related to you. It's only a matter of time before they find someone you know that talks too much.

If the social network was like prison, all you friends would be shanked by dinner.