Avoiding cyberstalking: How to stay safe online

Some simple steps can reduce the risk of online harassment. Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Archive

Stalking and harassment have always existed, but this sinister behaviour has moved into the virtual too.

'Cyberstalking' now appears to be becoming more common, with a man today sentenced over the crime for the first time in a British court.

The consequence could be having malicious information about you posted online, receiving direct threats, being impersonated, having your online accounts taken over or – in extreme cases like this – webcam hacking.

Being targeted in such a personal way, whether the ‘cyberstalker’ is someone a victim knows or a complete stranger, can be a horrendous experience.

Internet safety experts Get Safe Online have offered some tips on what can be done to reduce the risk to you and your family.

  • Review what information is available about you online and avoid making criminals’ lives too easy by oversharing

  • Consider your privacy settings on social media accounts too, don’t make everything available to everyone

  • Get into the habit of covering webcams when they are not being used

  • Regularly change passwords for your online accounts and do not share them with anybody else - even people you think you can trust

  • Unless you are using a secure web page, do not send or receive private information when using public WiFi, and make sure your own wireless hub/ router has security turned on

  • Do the basics and make sure you have up-to-date security software running on all devices, including smartphones and tablet

  • If you have been the victim of cyberstalking gather and document as much evidence as you can and report it to the police; if you have been targeted on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter they usually also have means to report such issues

More information and advice on how to avoid this type of online crime is available on the Get Safe Online website.