The Creepy Side of the Internet

A recent post in SC Magazine mentioned an incident on the University of Missouri-Kansas City where a student was harassing a faculty member with threatening emails. The student plead guilty and is facing jail time.

Thankfully, most states have enacted laws that include harassment through the internet. While this is a source of comfort, it appears however, that cyberstalking is a big problem.

Today’s web-tools make it easy to find all sorts of information on people. A simple Google search can reveal a surprising amount of personal information — there are even sites that are specifically geared to gathering personal data and aggregating it all in one place. The scary part is that much of the information is available for free; all you need is an email address to send the report to!

I’m not going to list these people-searching sites, but they are available and the data they have is incredible (and the information is kept up-to-date). These sites pull information from all over the internet. What can they reveal about you? Here’s a short list:

  • Names and addresses
  • Email addresses
  • Family members and their personal information
  • Arrest and conviction records
  • Licenses
  • Online activity
  • Lawsuits
  • Birth records
  • Marriage and divorce records
  • Residence history

Now, add this to a criminal’s ability to hack into personal computer systems and you have a recipe for concentrated attacks on targets using up-to-date personal information.

This is why the Internet of Things (IoT) is just as dangerous as it is wonderful. The connection of devices to the internet can exponentially increase productivity and the flow of information to enable society to do some really great things. But, it also gives criminals a way of cyberstalking their victims — first by harassing them, then planning and committing physical crimes against them.

If you become a victim of cyberstalking, report it to the authorities immediately. You’ll never know what the true intent of a cyberstalker is, so don’t take chances.

Periodically, do a web search on yourself to see what is available online about you and always be careful about the personal information you post online. People other than who you intend may be reading it.

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