Profile of Internet stalkers

Profile of Internet stalkers

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Your company has implemented network security and you have installed the latest security hotfixes on your servers, but is your Security Administrator being stalked? While you are busy keeping hackers out of your network, is an Internet stalker creeping into your life? Is there a Goliath invading your privacy or threatening your world? How do you know that a stalker hasn't already obtained your private information?

Join me on a journey as I focus on the profiles of Internet stalkers and provide security (and sleuthing) tips to reduce your odds of falling prey to these predators.

Script kiddies-stalkers -- on a quest to learn
Similar to script kiddies, these Internet stalkers have limited technical capabilities and operate in a random fashion scouring the Internet for vulnerable users registered in chat rooms and public forums. The script kiddies-stalkers probe (often copying other probing tactics) for personal information and quickly move on if resistance is detected along their search path. While harmless compared to other serious Internet stalkers, nevertheless, these novice stalkers are on a quest to learn more information about you than you are prepared to divulge to strangers.

Use new nicknames
Avoid using your family's real or known name online, especially in chat rooms or forums. Use a new nickname that only your close relatives can use to identify and communicate with you. You may also want to set up a secret code/theme to verify it is one of your relatives online. Use a separate nickname for your friends and don't disclose your family's nickname to anyone outside your immediate family. Avoid sharing passwords and secret codes/themes and change this information frequently (e.g., every 15-30 days).

Pedophiles-stalkers -- on a quest to lure
Similar to experienced hackers, who are electronically attracted to your data, these Internet stalkers are physically attracted to your kids. Unlike script kiddies-stalkers, these stalkers are serious with the power to attract other kids online. They hang out in chat rooms and forums and appear on your screen disguised as another innocent kid online that just happen to find your kid. Eventually, the conversations turn into a subtle interrogation session with an invitation to an in-person meeting.

Monitor chat, forums, and online games (such as Xbox)
Avoid meeting strangers online and monitor your kids' sessions in chat rooms, forums, and even with online gaming services as some now offer Chat services, such as Xbconnect.com. Instruct your kids not to entertain any questions and instead direct any inquiries to you immediately. Observe your child's response behavior online periodically and verify – don't assume – that their relative, schoolmate, or friend is indeed at the other end of the chat or game.

Predator-stalkers -- on a quest to invade
Similar to sophisticated hackers, predator-stalkers thrive on invading and threatening your privacy. These stalkers are very serious about their mission and often like to show off how much they know about you. They observe your online and offline habits and become obsessed with you. Sometimes, these stalkers will obtain enough information to break into your house or car.

Solomon wrote:

"What has been will be again, what has been done will be done
again; there is nothing new under the sun."

The Internet is the new messenger of our civilization; it is the electronic carrier of our communications and global marketplace for the 21st century. However, stalking is nothing new. Ask yourself the following questions:

Why is the Internet stalker focused on you or your family? How severe is the threat(s)? How much information has the stalker revealed to you? What other private information could the stalker have obtained? Do you think anyone in your family triggered this action? Where online did you provide this private information?

Defense and sleuthing

  • Meet with your immediate family to gather all the facts regarding any threats or computer crimes.
  • Contact your local police department and report threats and/or computer crimes.
  • Notify your bank(s) and credit card companies immediately and request new account numbers.
  • Notify your manager at work and report any threats or computer crimes.
  • Contact your University and report any threats or computer crimes.
  • Contact your Internet Service Provider (ISP) and register a complaint with offending IP address of stalker(s). Consider changing ISP if they are not prepared to help you.
  • Collect e-mails from stalker and observe behavioral patterns (i.e., language patterns, word selection, and other characteristics) that could assist you in identifying the stalker at a later time.
  • Change your host name, passwords, and contact your ISP to request that they renew your dynamic IP address with a different IP address and not just recycle your old IP address.
  • Visit http://www.cybercrime.gov/reporting.htm to learn if you are the victim of a computer crime and take the appropriate course of action.
  • Consider using tools (e.g., automating "netstat –na >> log.txt" via scheduler) to monitor all the connections to your computer.
  • Confirm your computer is running the latest software patch and security hotfixes.
  • Closely monitors any chat rooms, forums, and gaming sites your kids participate in.
  • Consider changing passwords/codes for home computers and alarm system.
  • No doubt, if you find yourself on the defense against an Internet stalker, it can be a psychological strain; however, it is possible to track the Internet stalker with good sleuthing and patience.

    Please write to me and let me know if this article has provided a better understanding of stalkers on the Internet.

    Luis Medina is the author of "The Weakest Link Series," which offers network managers an opportunity to identify ongoing network security issues. Luis also answers security questions in SearchNetworkings Ask the Expert section. Submit a security question to Luis here or view his previously answered Ask the Expert questions.

    This was first published in November 2002

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