Cyberstalking involves using various technologies, the internet, social media, email, and direct messaging to engage in harassing, stalking, or threatening behaviour. Cyberstalking can take many forms, such as bullying, sexual harassment, threats of physical harm, or other unwarranted interest in your day-to-day life.
This could involve:
- Spreading rumours and blackmailing the target.
- Hijacking the webcam or phone camera of a victim
- Sending rude and threatening messages to the victim
- Posting derogatory comments about a victim on social media
- Creating fake social media profiles aimed at harming the reputation or career of a target
- Releasing confidential information about the victim online
Generally, cyberstalking can be vindictive, composed, intimate, or collective. While vindictive cyberstalking involves malicious threats, composed cyberstalking involves harassment and annoyance. Intimate cyberstalking often stems from past relationships or individuals infatuated with the victim, and collective cyberstalking involves a group of people targeting a single victim.
Apple AirTags and Cyberstalking
Apple AirTags have been linked to cyberstalking. AirTags are small, button-sized trackers that can connect to nearby Apple devices using Bluetooth. Apple AirTag was launched in 2021 to assist iPhone users in monitoring their personal belongings and finding items that have gone missing.
If an AirTag is attached to a missing item, its location can be seen on a map in Apple’s Find My app for iPhones, iPads, and Mac computers. When an AirTag leaves its owner’s Bluetooth range, other Apple devices connected to the Find My network can pick up its Bluetooth signal and send its location data to the cloud.
However, AirTags have become a tool for cyberstalking and theft attempts because they employ technology enabling the “Find My” app to offer extremely accurate location tracking. Also, because they make use of the Apple network, every iPhone and iPad in the world becomes a listening device.
According to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), there are no less than twelve yearly cases of stalking related to devices similar to AirTags. Additionally, charities in the UK are reporting a worrying increase in AirTag stalking.
One protection from AirTag stalking offered by Apple is a notification that warns iPhone owners if an unidentified AirTag has been following or moving with them for a while. Although AirTag has competitors like Tile and others, this product stands out due to the expansive nature of Apple’s ecosystem. Notably, not all cyberstalking involves tracking devices like AirTags, yet AirTags may just be a gift to stalkers.
How to Protect Yourself Against Cyberstalking
Here is how to protect yourself from cyberstalking.
- Be cautious about sharing personal and sensitive information, such as your location, phone number, etc.
- Perform an online search on your name to find out what information is available about you online. If you discover sensitive information, take steps to remove it or limit your visibility.
- Develop the habit of using strong passwords for your online accounts. Use a password manager to store complex passwords securely.
- Make your social media posts private so that only your friends can see them.
- Avoid using public WiFi because it is easily hacked and can be used to spy on your activities online or steal your passwords.
- Always log out of your email, social media, and other online accounts once you’re done using them. By doing so, you’ll prevent easy access to your accounts in case someone gains access to your device.