This guest post comes to us from Cassie Phillips of SecureThoughts.com.
I asked her to write a post specific to online security for mental health advocates.
Here is the post. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Cyber-stalking is a Real Crime: How to Prevent It
Technology eases our advocacy efforts by allowing us to quickly reach more people with our message. While these technological developments have been good for communication and interaction, they have also come with a downside such as the risk for cyber-stalking. While technology makes it easier for bullies, stalkers and predators to have greater anonymity, it can make you more visible and a target for cyber-stalking if you are a public mental health advocate.
The open access and anonymous nature of the internet exposes you to the risk of inappropriate, derogatory, and offensive communication. Cyber-stalking may have long-lasting effects that could make it harder for you to perform your duties as a mental health advocate. You don’t want to live with harassment and fear and you don’t deserve to.
You need to take the following precautions to prevent yourself from becoming the victim of a cyber-stalker or other cyber-criminal:
Monitor Access to Your Devices
Be vigilant about who has physical access to your devices such as your smart phone and laptop. In many instances, the cyber-stalker will use pieces of software such as keyloggers to monitor your activities and even steal the authentication data to your accounts.
Ensuring that you have complete control over who has access to your devices will make it hard for a hacker to monitor what you are doing online.
Use an online security suite to scan your devices regularly for any malware that a cyber-stalker could take advantage of. A quality piece of software will allow you to put the fear of malware out of your mind while you focus on helping others. You should also consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN is effective against cyber-stalkers as it encrypts your data and channels it through a secure offsite server thus making it inaccessible to potential cyber-stalkers on the same network.
Practice Good Password Management
In order to prevent the theft of your important accounts (which can give a cyber-stalker a treasure trove of your private information), you need to make sure that you are creating strong passwords that are long and varied. To keep yourself safe you should never share your passwords with anyone and change them often. Be certain that you never use the same password for different websites. Ensure that your laptop and smart phone are password protected and that you log out when you step away from the computer.
Enable Privacy Settings for Websites
Most websites allow you to change privacy settings and change the amount of information you share. Take a look at these settings and see if it is possible to block some people from having access to your photos or other information. Having online itineraries or calendars could also let the stalker know your place, so keep these private as well. When writing as a mental health advocate, it helps to be as private as possible if you are to avoid the attentions of a cyber-stalker. Just make sure to check these settings for all the major websites you use.
Spoof Accounts and Impersonation
The last thing you want is for someone to try to impersonate you as a mental health advocate and then talk to the people you care about, giving them a false impression. If you are advocating for a private client, you do not want cyber-stalkers and other cyber-criminals to get your clients’ data and private correspondence because they were fooled by a false account.
Make sure that you are on the lookout for these accounts and make a quick search every week or so. Talk with people and let them know of ways they can ask you to verify your identity when online. If you do find an account, make sure to try to get it taken down or flagged as soon as possible to cut down this problem quickly.
Limit the Amount of Information You Share Online
What to Do When You Are a Victim
While you may follow the basics of security, you may find that you fall victim to a cyber-stalker. In such an instance, it is important to:
- Trust your instincts. If you are in a hostile situation or are uncomfortable, block the person and log off. Use message and chat filtering tools liberally.
- If you receive unsolicited contact, tell the person that they need to desist from further contact and that the behavior will not be tolerated. After this, do not communicate with them any further.
- If you can, save screenshots and communications with the stalker as they are. These will come in handy if you need to report them to website managers or other authorities.
- If you receive threats to your safety, immediately tell people close to you and then law enforcement so they can take appropriate against the perpetrator. At the very least you will have more people watching your back.
The most critical thing that you could do to protect yourself from becoming a victim of cyber-stalking is to keep your information private and secure. Nevertheless, if you happen to become a victim, you have to remember that cyber-stalking is a crime. Collect and keep as much evidence as you can and contact law enforcement for help.
How much private information do you have online? Do you believe that as mental health advocate you are safe from cyber-stalking? Considering the increasing rates of cyber-stalking, how are you keeping yourself safe? Try to think about these questions and have a conversation with your colleagues and friends about this important topic.
About the Author: Cassie Phillips is a cyber-security expert and a personal safety writer. She is passionate about sharing cyber-security information with people who may become targets for cyber-stalking and other cyber-crime.
(c) Cassie Phillips 2016 All Rights Reserved