Stalking in the real world means to “pursue or approach someone stealthily”. If this activity is indulged in, in the cyber space then it is termed as Cyber Stalking. That means repeated missed calls; repeated friend requests; repeated missed calls; attempts to gather personal information about the victim from friends & family; monitoring the targets online activity by getting at their IP address; attack on data and equipment of the victim by sending them viruses etc. The bottom line is that it can be all pervasive and omnipresent. This not only makes the victim uncomfortable at times. But it can make them feel hunted and cornered. If such a situation arises out of such cyber stalking then any result or outcome may follow; an outcome that may be disastrous for the victim as well as their families.
Cyber stalking can be done by a total stranger or by even a good acquaintance or friend. That is the virtual vulnerability that is such a challenge in the present day and age. In the bygone era if a person was being stalked then more often than not it had to be a stranger but today it can well be a very good friend! One can never know as in the virtual world there is no physical presence in front of us but only a screen or a speaker. What is displayed on the screen or what is being heard on a speaker may or may not be the reality. Thus cyber stalking is presenting such a challenge to control and the effects on the victims are devastating, to say the least.
According to the Norton Security report of 2016 almost 62% Indian teens are vulnerable to being stalked on online social media platforms and more than half of Indian adults believe that their kids could come to harm online. These are indeed disturbing and alarming trends and figures and they are bound to go up as more and more youth and teens flock to the use of the internet and cyber space.
These trends can be clearly seen in the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) figures. According to them in the eight years from 2007-2014 the figures of registered cyber stalking cases in India showed a healthy increase of 665% jumping from 99 cases in 2007 to 758 cases in 2014.
The most vulnerable section to this heinous crime are teenaged and young girls. They are often victims to this all pervasive and intrusive activity at the hands of total strangers who have just seen them online or by know individuals. A case of Faridabad illustrates the hazards that young persons (especially girls) face in the cyber space. Heena was a young college student of the Manav Rachna University at Faridabad. She was being cyber stalked by two youths – one her college mate called Abhishek Chauhan and another boy named Vivek who worked in a company in Gurgaon. Vivek had even tried to befriend Heena in the real world. But facing a rebuff he ganged up with Abhishek to cyber stalk the poor college student.
The stalking became so unbearable that one day the hapless victim Heena did not go to college and stayed back in her hostel room. When her friends returned they found the door locked from the inside. They broke in and found the victim standing on the ledge of the window, ready to jump off. They tried to talk her into coming off the ledge but she was so distressed and disturbed that she ultimately jumped off and to her death! Thus tragically the young life of a promising girl ended, for no fault of hers. Just that some misguided and criminal minded youth had decided to cyber stalk her.
These problems will rise as pointed out earlier. The anonymity provided by the cyber space coupled with the physical absence of the perpetrator from the crime scene is fuelling the fire which is evident in the ever increasing number of cyber stalking cases. Thus protective measures are a must. These include – do not let yourself be befriended by unknown individuals in the cyber space; review what online information exists about you and keep it to a minimum; regularly change your passwords for key accounts; review all your privacy and security settings; ensure wi-fi has security turned on; do not send personal information when using a public wi-fi & have updated spyware installed on your device.
However despite your best efforts if you ever feel that you are being stalked online then collect as much documents and evidence that you can which is related to the stalking and approach the police for help. The police is duty bound to register your complaint and take appropriate legal action. In case of a women being a victim of cyber stalking then the provisions of section 354D of the Indian Penal Code are attracted. In this for a first offence the perpetrator can be sentenced up to 3 years and fined and in second or subsequent conviction for a prison term extending up to five years with a fine.
The moot point is that in no case should a victim feel hounded or hunted. The law and police are there to help them rid themselves of this distressing situation. The victim should also never ignore initial small attempts at stalking by the stalker. They may feel that if they ignore the perpetrator, he would stop his criminal stalking behavior. In fact many times this kind of ignoring only serves to encourage the perpetrator – as he takes it as a silent consent of the victim towards his actions. He then qualifies from minor irritants to major criminal stalking activities. Thus the motto should be – “secure behavior on the net – zero tolerance for cyber stalking”.