October 28, 2016
Categorised in: Computer Forensic & Cyber Applications
Cyberstalking is the use of the Internet or other electronic means to stalk or harass an individual, a group of individuals, or an organization.
HOW VICTIMS ARE STALKED?
- false accusations
- making threats
- identity theft
- the solicitation of minors for sex
TYPES OF STALKERS
Vindicative Cyberstalkers: They are noted for the ferocity of their attacks.
Composed Cyberstalkers: Their only motive is to annoy
Intimate Cyberstalkers: They’re attept is to form a relationship with the victim but turns on them if rebuffed
Collective Cyberstalkers: Groups with motive.
HOW DO CYBERSTALKERS MEET THEIR TARGETS?
- search engines
- online forums
- chat rooms
- online communities
- bulletins and discussion boards
THE MOST POPULAR KEY FACTORS
Ordering goods and services
They order items or subscribe to magazines in the victim’s name.
Encouraging others to harass the victim
Many cyberstalkers try to involve third parties in the harassment.
Attempts to gather information about the victim
Cyberstalkers may approach their victim’s friends, family and work colleagues to obtain personal information.
United States – The first U.S. cyberstalking law went into effect in 1999 in California.
Australia – In Australia, the Stalking Amendment Act (1999) includes the use of any form of technology to harass a target as forms of “criminal stalking„
United Kingdom – In the United Kingdom, the Malicious Communications Act (1998) classified cyberstalking as a criminal offense.
HOW CYBERSTALKERS OPERATE
Cyberstalking works in much the same way as stalking in the physical world.
many offenders combine their online activities with more traditional forms of stalking and harassment such as telephoning the victim and going to the victim’s home.
Some cyberstalkers obtain victims over the Internet and others put personal information about their victims online, encouraging others to contact the victim, or even harm him/her.
Stalkers want to exert power over their victims in some way, primarily through fear.
The crux of a stalker’s power is information about and knowledge of the victim.
A stalker’s ability to frighten and control a victim increases with the amount of information that he/she can gather about the victim.
Stalkers use information like telephone numbers, addresses, and personal preferences to impinge upon their victims’ lives.
Over time cyberstalkers can learn what sorts of things upset their victims and can use this knowledge to harass the victims further.
Stalkers depend heavily on information, it is no surprise that stalkers have taken to the Internet.
the Internet contains a vast amount of personal information about people and makes it relatively easy to search for specific items.
As well as containing people’s addresses and phone numbers, the Internet records many of our actions, choices, interests, and desires.
Databases containing Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, medical history, criminal records, and much more can also be accessed using the Internet.
Additionally, cyberstalkers can use the Internet to harass specific individuals or acquire new victims from a large pool of potential targets.
In one case, a woman was stalked in chatrooms for several months, during which time the stalker placed detailed personal information online and threatened to rape and kill her.
Some offenders seek victims online but it is more common for stalkers to use chat networks to target individuals that they already know.
Many stalkers had prior acquaintance with their victims before the stalking behavior began (Harmon, Rosner, & Owens, 1998).
The implication of these studies is that investigators should pay particular attention to acquaintances of the victim.
After all, it is uncertain what constitutes an acquaintance on the Internet and the Internet makes it easier for cyberstalkers to find victims of opportunity.(A victim of opportunity is a victim whom a stalker was not acquainted with before the stalking began.)
Cyberstalkers can search the Web, browse through ICQ and AOL profiles, and lurk in IRC and AOL chat rooms looking for likely targets—vulnerable, underconfident individuals who will be easy to intimidate.
ICQ is an instant messaging computer program that was first developed and popularized by the Israeli company Mirabilis, which was acquired by America Online (AOL), and since April 2010 owned by Mail.Ru Group.
ANONYMITY AND SURREPTITIOUS (KEEP SECRET) MONITORING
Advantage of internet: protecting a stalker’s identity and allowing a stalker to monitor a victim’s activities.
For example, stalkers acquainted with their victims use the Internet to hide their identity, sending forged or anonymous e-mail and using ICQ or AOL Instant Messenger to harass their victims.
Also, stalkers can utilize ICQ or AOL Instant Messenger, and other applications (e.g., finger) to determine when a victim is online.
Stalkers can use the Internet to spy on a victim.
Although few cyberstalkers are skilled enough to break into a victim’s e-mail account or intercept e-mail in transit, a cyberstalker can easily observe a conversation in a live chat room.
This type of pre-surveillance of victims and amassing of information about potential victims might suggest intent to commit a crime but it is not a crime in itself, and is not stalking as defined by the law.
ESCALATION AND VIOLENCE
It is often suggested that stalkers will cease harassing their victims once they cease to provoke the desired response.
some stalkers become aggravated when they do not get what they want and become increasingly threatening.
stalkers have resorted to violence and murder. Therefore, it is important for investigators to be extremely cautious when dealing with a stalking case.
Investigators should examine the available evidence closely, protect the victim against further harm as much as possible, and consult with experts when in doubt.
Most importantly, investigators should not make hurried judgments that are based primarily on studies of past cases.
There are several stages to investigating a cyberstalking case.
These stages assume that:
- The identity of the cyberstalker is unknown.
- Even if the victim suspects an individual, investigators are advised to explore alternative possibilities and suspects.
- Although past research suggests that most stalkers have prior relationships with victims, this may not apply when the Internet is involved as stranger stalking is easier.
Therefore, consider the possibility that the victim knows the stalker, but do not assume that this is the case:
- Interview victims
Determine what evidence the victim has of cyberstalking and obtain details about the victim that can be used to develop victimology.
The aim of this initial information gathering stage is to confirm that a crime has been committed and to obtain enough information to move forward with the investigation.
- Interview others
If there are other people involved, interview them to compile a more complete picture of what occurred.
- Victimology and risk management
Determine why an offender chose a specific victim and what risks the offender was willing to take to acquire that victim.
The primary aim of this stage of the investigation is to understand the victim–offender relationship and determine where additional digital evidence might be found.
- Search for additional digital evidence
Use what is known about the victim and cyberstalker to perform a thorough search of the Internet.
Victimology is key at this stage, guiding investigators to locations that might interest the victim or individuals like the victim.
The cyberstalker initially observed or encountered the victim somewhere and investigators should try to determine where.
Consider the possibility that the cyberstalker encountered the victim in the physical world.
The aim of this stage is to gather more information about the crime, the victim, and the cyberstalker.
- Crime scene characteristics
Examine crime scenes and cybertrails for distinguishing features (e.g., location, time, method of approach, and choice of tools) and try to determine their significance to the cyberstalker.
The aim of this stage is to gain a better understanding of the choices that the cyberstalker made and the needs that were fulfilled by these choices.
Determine what personal needs the cyberstalking was fulfilling.
Be careful to distinguish between intent (e.g., to exert power over the victim or to frighten the victim) and the personal needs that the cyberstalker’s behavior satisfied (e.g., to feel powerful or to retaliate against the victim for a perceived wrong).
The aim of this stage is to understand the cyberstalker well enough to narrow the suspect pool, revisit the prior steps, and uncover additional evidence.
If the identity of the cyberstalker is still not known, interview the victim again.
The information that investigators have gathered might help the victim recall additional details or might suggest a likely suspect to the victim.
Pratik Kataria is a budding programmer, web designer and developer.