Sulekha is 27 year old, not married and works in a leading Indian bank and one day she receives a friend request on her Facebook account from Rakesh. she accepts the friend request and they exchange few messages and slowly they become social media friends and then one day exchange phone numbers also. Then Rakesh invites her for a lunch to celebrate his birthday and during lunch proposes his love to Sulekha and asks if she would be interested in marrying him. She informs him that her family has already found an alliance for her and she has also giver her consent. Rakesh gets dejected but cannot forget her, so hoping that he can win over her starts sending her romantic poems and messages to her on Facebook. Sulekha initially ignores his messages but the number of messages becomes too many, then she warns him to stop sending messages and when he does not listen she blocks him. Then her ordeal started, where she starts getting messages on sms, email and social media platforms containing romantic bordering porn poems, pictures and videos from different user names and mobile numbers. In some of the messages, her activities and locations she visited was mentioned indicating that her activities and travel were monitored by somebody. Later her friends and relatives started getting messages impersonating her email and social profiles, containing all kind of derogatory and defamatory text and pictures. Sulekha had become a victim of cyber stalking.
Cyberstalking is a crime in which the attacker harasses a victim using electronic communication, such as e-mail or instant messaging (IM), or messages posted to a Web site or a discussion group. A cyber stalker relies upon the anonymity afforded by the Internet to allow them to stalk their victim without being detected. People commit cyberstalking for many reasons, including to harass, annoy, intimidate, threaten, abuse, humiliate, or lure the victim. In addition, cyberstalking often involves slander, impersonation, sabotage, sexual solicitation, and other offensive behavior. Cyberstalking is persistent, It may take place on social media, chat apps, discussion forums, text, or email. The stalker is often someone you know, even though you may not always know who exactly it is. That said, sometimes you don’t know the person stalking you at all. The type of cyberstalking you may be the target of depends on the nature of the cyberstalker and the method they use to cyberstalk you. Cyberstalking could be a current, former, or hopeful romantic partner or friend or a coworker or a person you met occasionally or briefly or a complete stranger to you. Refer to my article on cybercrimes on women for more details.
Cyberstalking Techniques or How Cyberstalking is carried out :-
Some of the common techniques or methods used by cyberstalkers include, following on your social media activities, emails, messages and browsing history to gather information about you and know your location, activities done by you and people you are talking to. They may create a fake profile on social media or in dating or matrimonial sites and impersonate you to defame you or gain trust and do frauds in your name. They may also publish your current location, activities done by you and thereby can be very dangerous and a threat to your life and dignity. They may even install malwares and salkerware software or programs and hack your system and monitor all your activities and communication.
How to protect oneself from Cyberstalking cybercrimes :-
- Keep your social media profile locked or private.
- Do not accept friend requests without proper checking their background.
- Do not share your personal and sensitive information including pictures of where you travel or your loved ones in public space, if you want to share with known friends and family only.
- Use good antivirus and a firewall software and keep it updated.
- Do not share your location or travel plans in public.
- Do not respond to strangers messages and block immediately if you are suspicious of them.
If you are a victim of Cyberstalking cybercrime :-
Immediately call 1930 cyber helpline or file a complaint at cybercrime.gov.in. Complain to the relevant authority or social media website about such fraudsters and the fraud. Block that user but do not delete any information, instead save them as they will be needed as evidence to prosecute the criminal. If you had installed any software or clicked a hyper link or scanned a QR code provided by fraudster, then uninstall that software, change the passwords/pins of all your important accounts like banking, email etc. Best is to factory reset or format your device as your antivirus may also sometimes fail to find the malware.
Legal(Indian) remedies available to the victim :-
You can register a criminal case at your nearest cyber or regular police station, under the following legal sections or under the Acts and Sections as prescribed by the police as per your case :
- Section 292-294(creation, distribution and sale of obscene content),Section 354 (Assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty) Section 354 A to D(online harassment, abuse, voyeurism or stalking crimes against women in cyberspace), Section 406(Criminal Breach of trust), Section 419(Impersonation), Section 420 (cheating), Section 424(extract data illegally), Section 441(criminal trespass), Section 499(defamation), Section 500(punishment for slander), Section 503(Threats to harm a person’s reputation), Section 507(Criminal Intimidation), Section 509(Insult privacy and modesty) of Indian Penal Code(IPC).
- Section 43 (Penalty and compensation for damage to computer, computer system, etc.), section 66 (punishment for computer related offences – data theft, transmitting virus into a system, destroying data, hacking, or denying access to the computer or network to an authorized person), section 66C(penalties for identity theft and states that anyone who fraudulently or dishonestly uses a person’s identity information), Section 66D (punishment for fraud by impersonation using computer resources), Section 67(publish, transmit, or cause the distribution of obscene content), and Section 67A(publishing, transmission, or facilitating the transfer of sexually explicit content) of The Information Technology Act 2000/08.
- Other than this relevant sections from The Immoral Traffic Prevention Act,1956 and Protect children from sexual abuse (POCSO) Act,2012.