Plying cyberspace is both a gift and curse. On one hand, we have all these tools and resources for information, connecting with people, and sharing your expertise. On the other hand, the anonymity and the instant access to public information (or the private information you share) can make your experience of the same as miserable as it can get.
I read an article that involved the book blogging community wrapped up in a razzmatazz as an author wrote an essay on The Guardian about how she didn’t take too kindly about a book blogger giving her novel a one-star review on Goodreads, and somehow by some twist of fate ended up at this lady’s front door! Of course this is creepy, not to mention petrifying. I am a blogger; surely such a situation would have me go all ninja and samurai, cloak-and-dagger, covert-spy in a bid to remove myself from a situation. Thusly, it begs the question, what must one do to protect themselves from the stalkers and trolls whose main goal is to see that you are always paranoid. Here are a couple of ways to guard against these menacing folk:
1. Switch up your passwords
As much as it is a pain to do, changing your passwords often is going to save you a lot of heartache and headache in the long run. We have to use uppercase, lowercase, numbers and symbols, with at least 8 characters. Not only is the strength of your password important, but not using the same one for every site you login is crucial. It can take one answer to a secret question before a hacker gets into your online banking, your Twitter, your email, and every online foot-print you have made.
2. Always Get Domain Privacy
For those of you who have yourname.com and any other domain name, no matter where you purchase it, be sure to also purchase domain privacy, it is a general rule of thumb. If you don’t, whatever contact information you signed up with or any other registrar is public information. Domain privacy keeps vital information hidden, like your address, et cetera.
When you go to purchase your domain, the registrar will ask you if you’d like to buy private domain registration, which protects your identity and personal details from being displayed in a WHOIS search. The protection you get depends on the price you are willing to pay.
3. Get a Postal Address
If you have any products or blog related items sent to you via email, have those things sent to a PO Box instead to protect yourself from the folk living in crazy-town.
4. Be Careful Where You Access the Internet
We all get excited when we get WIFI, but you should be very careful about where you log in to when you’re on it. I just read a post on Medium about how two guys were doing an experiment on just how vulnerable your computer is when it’s connected to public WIFI. They were able to access everybody’s computer, see what websites they were on, and even find out who each person was, because they had their Facebook OR Twitter open. Aaah, if that does make your skin crawl, well, I don’t know what will.
5. Exercise your right to block
The number one rule of the Internet is “do not feed the trolls”, and we need to remember that rule like we remember our mama’s birthday or feed, I mean it should be as involuntary as breathing. Each, someone is being rude and ignorant online just to get a rise out of people. You can tell the difference between someone engaging in a healthy debate, and somebody who is just out to cause some trouble. If it’s someone who belongs in the latter group, exercise your right to block, it is a fundamental right and freedom that you need to exercise. Actually, you can report as spam if necessary. Leave them where they are, and don’t reply. Psychotherapist Dr. Aaron Balick says that the main reason people troll is because they want attention. The moment you give in, you’ll spur them on to keep sending you more abuse.
“A troll will seize on most anything to get a rise out of you,” he says. “Don’t rise to the bait, and don’t feed the trolls. Protect yourself by realizing it’s not so much about you as the troll, and don’t encourage trolling by refusing to give them what they want – attention.”
6. Report Abuse
Such Platforms such as Twitter have functionalities where you can block people, and report tweets as abuse. The only way that trolls will get caught is if we highlight their abuse, so as soon as you see something negative, make sure you report it, but be rational about it, do not be swayed by emotion at a probably-valid comment and jump the gun, but at the end of the day, you choose what to do with what has befallen you.
The mantra of ‘Ignore, Block, and Report’ should be your autopilot when it comes to getting nasty messages. Additionally, one way to deal with trolls is to publically shame them. By doing this, you can garner support against those trolls; accumulate to yourself a great supportive community to rally behind you whenever the sickos are out for blood. However, even though it can be helpful to retweet the abuse you’re receiving, there is a lurking danger in taking it too far and listing personal information about your troll.
The worry is that it could lead to a situation where vigilante justice arises and other social media users start targeting your troll. In worst case scenarios, it could ensue to a crime where the troll ends up being attacked, from whence you could find yourself in legal trouble for encouraging the crime.
7. Send Them Animal Pictures
In very rare situations, sometimes a sense of humor helps when dealing with trolls. Perhaps you could send them funny clips or animal videos that are cute and cuddly. It is all meant to degrade the situation and removes the power that trolls have of being total buzz-kills and end up ruining your day, this is one way to manage the situation.
8. Know All the Possible Cyber-Threat Terminology of a Social Nature
Sometimes, people don’t know that stalking or trolling is happening to them, probably it feeds your psychological need or is downright ignorance of the process, and more often than not most people believe that they deserve it. Being familiar with internet terminologies that describe these awkward situations are out there and you need to understand them, also in order to fend off would be stalkers, trolls, and bullies. Such terms as:
Troll: In Internet slang, a troll is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.
This sense of the word troll and its associated verb trolling are associated with Internet discourse, but have been used more widely. Media attention in recent years has equated trolling with online harassment. [Source: Wikipedia]
Sockpuppet: an online identity used for purposes of deception. The term, a reference to the manipulation of a simple hand puppet made from a sock, originally referred to a false identity assumed by a member of an Internet community who spoke to, or about, themselves while pretending to be another person. The term now includes other misleading uses of online identities, such as those created to praise, defend or support a person or organization, or to circumvent a suspension or ban from a website. A significant difference between the use of a pseudonym and the creation of a sockpuppet is that the sockpuppet poses as an independent third-party unaffiliated with the puppeteer [Source: Wikipedia]
Cyberstalking: the use of the Internet or other electronic means to stalk or harass an individual, a group, or an organization. It may include false accusations, defamation, slander and libel. It may also include monitoring, identity theft, threats, vandalism, solicitation for sex, or gathering information that may be used to threaten or harass. [Source: Wikipedia]
Mobbing means bullying of an individual by a group in any context, such as a family, friends, peers, school, workplace, neighborhood, community, or online.
When it occurs as emotional abuse in the workplace, such as “ganging up” by co-workers, subordinates or superiors, to force someone out of the workplace through rumor, innuendo, intimidation, humiliation, discrediting, and isolation, it is also referred to as malicious, nonsexual, nonracial, general harassment. [Source: Wikipedia]
Gang stalking is organized harassment at its best. It the targeting of an individual [by a group] for revenge, jealousy, sport, or to keep them quiet, etc. It’s a psychological attack that can completely destroy a person’s life, while leaving little or no evidence to incriminate the perpetrators. [Source: Urban Dictionary]
Doxing (from dox, abbreviation of documents) is the Internet-based practice of researching and broadcasting personally identifiable information about an individual. The methods employed in pursuit of this information include searching publicly available databases and social media websites (like Facebook), hacking, and social engineering. It is closely related to cyber-vigilantism, hacktivism and cyber-bullying. [Source: Wikipedia]
Doxing is the process of retrieving, hacking and publishing other people’s information such as names, addresses, phone numbers and credit card details. Doxing may be targeted toward a specific person or an organization. There are many reasons for doxing, but one of the most popular is coercion. [Source: Techopedia]
Ultimately, just always remember that you are responsible for your own security, so outsource that fact to other people; you are the first line of defense.