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Memorial Day: May 30, 2016 Have a safe and peaceful Memorial Day.
Have an unshakable feeling that someone is tracking your whereabouts and conversations via your cell phone? Given the ease of use and access to spyware tools these days, coupled with your involvement in a hostile situation (divorce, child custody or partnership split), you just might be right. Know what to look for and what to do.
Access is key
Since installing tracking apps and spyware requires physical access to your phone, the easiest way to prevent these mobile intrusions is to keep your phone secure. Obviously, though, you can’t take your phone everywhere – you have to shower sometime – make sure you set a PIN to your phone – and make it a difficult one (no birthdays, addresses, anniversaries, etc.).
Has your iPhone been “jailbroken”?
In order to install tracking or spyware to your iPhone, a process called “jailbreaking” is required to bypass Apple’s strict security. The person tracking you may have been in a rush and they might not have deleted jailbreaking apps, the most commonly used are: Cydia, Icy, Installer, Installous and SBSettings. Simply swipe right on your home screen to search your phone, as they won’t necessarily show up with an app icon.
Check your bills
If there’s a tracking app or spyware on your phone, it will more than likely contain a GPS aspect to it which would send your data usage through the roof. Check your bill for a spike in this usage.
Signs you may have tracking apps or spyware installed
There are tell-tale signs that your phone might be tracking you without your knowledge, such as:
Don’t ignore odd messages
If you receive a text message full of what looks like computer code, or garbled numbers, it is possible it’s an ‘instruction’ message sent by the remote controller of the tracking software on your phone; the spyware works by receiving such messages and although they are meant to go unnoticed, may sometimes appear in your inbox.
How to remove tracking apps and spyware
Keep your phone’s software up to date, use anti-malware software and delete anything suspicious. But the only sure way is to do a full backup to your computer, reset your phone to factory settings and then reinstall everything one by one, making sure to only reinstall apps you know and trust.
If you’re using an iPhone that you suspect has been jailbroken, upgrade to the latest version of iOS as this will reverse the jailbreak and remove the malignant software – just make sure you’re backed up first.
Finally, run one of the below top five (as determined by Lifehacker) malware removal products:
(They are found on CNet and, reviewed there as well.)
The bottom line is situational awareness. If you are in the process of a divorce, business partnership split-up, other litigation, etc. believe that someone will try to get an inside peek into your life. Remain vigilant.
BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.
As always, stay safe.
Last week, in Part I/II of What the Law Can and Can Not Do About Cyberstalking, we provided information regarding the reporting of cyberstalking process.
In this second and final part of this series, this week we explore the limits that law enforcement encounters in dealing with cyber stalking and then provide you with Help For Crime Victims real time information.
When the Law Itself is Handcuffed Regarding CyberStalking
Revenge Porn– the online posting of explicit photos of people without their permission, usually by an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend – is a legal gray area in most states. Victims of revenge porn have filed civil lawsuits against their victimizers and the sites that have published the images. These lawsuits are typically based on claims of copyright infringement and invasion of privacy. While the individuals who published the images can be directly sued, the website owners themselves are immune under section 230 of the Federal Communications Decency Act (47 U.S.C 230). Under that statute owners and operators of websites are generally not held responsible for material posted by others on their sites. The photos or videos are either published on websites specifically geared towards revenge porn, or on pornographic websites featuring categories for these types of photographs and/or videos. Many sites permit the publisher (the “ex”) to include the victim’s identifying information, such as the person’s full name, address, employer, and hometown, as well as links to the person’s Facebook or social media webpages. Without fail the websites have a comment section below the pictures or videos allowing voyeurs to post their own vulgar or degrading comments about the victim. Although some revenge porn sites have been shut down, new ones continue to appear.
Disappearing Evidence. (I.e., SnapChat.) In assessing the threat level of a complaint, the police will need to examine proof. SnapChat – the wildly popular mobile app that allows you to send videos and pictures, both of which will self destruct after a few seconds of a person viewing them – is the cyberstalker’s preferred tool of trade. Combined with “normal” IMs, emails, texts, etc., harassment by Snapchat coupled with seemingly normal chat via these other regular communication methods are a form of gaslighting – the intent is to portray the victim as being a liar or mentally unstable when , in fact, the cyberstalker is committing the horrible acts s/he is being accused of by the victim.
Stalker Identification. Cyber stalkers understand that law enforcement needs proof positive – that which positively identifies the stalker – in order to charge the wrong-doer. Often cyber-stalkers will share their online, telephone or other data programs with others so that the shared usage cannot exactly identify the end-user.
For the moment, it appears that cyber criminals are ahead of cyber law by several steps but as the law catches up with technology, less and less will that be the case. In the interim:
The National Center for Victims of Crime has a number of resources available to assist victims of crime. Our National Help Line, VictimConnect, provides help for victims of any crime nationwide, and can be reached by phone at 1–855-4VICTIM (1-855-484-2846) or by online chat.
The VictimConnect Resource Center is a place for crime victims to learn about their rights and options confidentially and compassionately. A program of the National Center for Victims of Crime, it combines:
With extensive specialized training, our Victim Assistance Specialists stand ready to help crime victims understand their rights and options, find information and connect with resources, access referrals, and craft next steps to regain control over their lives.
The National Center’s Connect Directory provides a fast and easy way for victims to locate service providers specializing in specific areas of victimization in a wide variety of jurisdictions throughout the country. Users enter information into a simple form which is used to pull up contact information for service providers nearby who can help.
https://www.domesticshelters.org/, a project of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), and Theresa’s Fund, provides abuse victims, their friends and family, and agencies, with the most comprehensive, searchable database housing more than 300,000 data points on more than 3,000 domestic violence shelters, agencies and programs in the U.S.
GetHelp Bulletins provide information on a wide range of topics, including the impact of crime, victims’ rights, and the criminal and civil justice processes. The bulletins also include resources for victims, their families, and friends.
The U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime (OVC), provides an online directory of Victim Services throughout the country. OVC also provides information about victim assistance and compensation programs available in communities around the country.
Go to the helpful links section of our resource library for other Web sites offering crime and victimization information.
The National Crime Victim Bar Association is a network of attorneys and allied professionals dedicated to facilitating civil actions brought by crime victims. Crime victims may be able to file civil lawsuits against perpetrators and responsible third parties for the damages the victims suffered as a result of the crime.
BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.
As always, stay safe.
(In Part I of the two-part series, What The Law Can and Can Not Do About Cyber Stalking, we define cyber-stalking; its meaning and statistics. Part II will be a very specific checklist of what to do if you believe you are a victim of cyber stalking.)
If you’ve been online in a social media context, whether in a chat room, FB, Twitter, etc., for longer than several months, you’ve probably felt, to some degree, that your privacy has been compromised. For example and factually, in a general conversation on FB, I’ve been asked where I live, where I work, what type of car I drive and which schools do my kids attend. In a face to face chat at a block party with your new neighbors, those questions are simply part of making conversation. Online, however, these very same questions are creepy. And they should be! You can vet your new neighbors through other neighbors, the postal carrier and by yourself visually by observing their comings and goings. Obviously, you do not have access to that sort of information with strangers online. However, we are all online trying to form, strengthen or preserve social connections and to do so, candid conversation is required.
The primary rule of online communication is “Use common sense”. When my sister, Carmela, asks me what time I will be getting home from work today, I will respond factually. “Bob from Oklahoma” (with whom I have three mutual friends, twice-removed) asking the same exact question receives no response. But, in answering Mel, I’ve already told Creepy Bob my schedule and he didn’t have to lift a finger to get the information. Cyberstalkers often work through others, engaging in what appears to be casual conversation with the rest of the people on the same thread but the difference is that they are compiling information on their subject and believe that they are engaged in a one-on-one relationship with the subject. In the past year alone, think of the hundreds or thousands of interactions you’ve had on Facebook with family members, real time friends and online connections. Now try to remember all of the information contained within those conversations. Finally, imagine a cyberstalker having all of this information and s/he believes he is in a relationship (romantic, friendship, mentor/student, etc.) with you. Invariably, something will go “wrong” and in your stalker’s mind, you have turned against him so begins to harass you. What can you do? What are the rules with cyberstalking? Who do you turn to to report what you believe is harassing, or worse, threatening behavior?
What Is Cyberstalking?
At its most basic legal definition, “cyber-stalking is a repeated course of conduct that’s aimed at a person designed to cause emotional distress and fear of physical harm,” said Danielle Citron, a professor at the University of Maryland’s Francis King Carey School of Law. Citron is an expert in the area of cyber-stalking, and recently published the book called Hate Crimes in Cyberspace. Citron states that cyber-stalking can include threats of violence (often sexual), spreading lies asserted as facts (like a person has herpes, a criminal record, or is a sexual predator), posting sensitive information online (whether that’s nude or compromising photos or social security numbers), and technological attacks (falsely shutting down a person’s social-media account).
According to the United States Bureau of Justice Statistics’ Supplemental Victimization Survey (SVS), individuals are classified as stalking victims if they experienced at least one of these behaviors on at least two separate occasions. In addition, the individuals must have feared for their safety or that of a family member as a result of the course of conduct, or have experienced additional threatening behaviors that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.
The SVS measured stalking behaviors as:
Who Is Most Likely To Be CyberStalked?
Summary Findings by the USBJS:
What Are the Anti-Stalking Laws?
All states have anti-harassment laws on the books but the law is still trying to catch up with technology in cases of cyber-stalking due to the new means of information transmission and the very public nature of social media postings. (For example, it is now generally accepted by all states prosecutors that, even with the subject’s initial agreement to pose naked, unauthorized distribution of nude photos are a form of harassment.)
WHO@ provides links to state-by-state current and pending cyberstalking-related laws. WHO@, Working To Halt Abuse Online, is an online organization who states its mission is, “to provide a variety of information and perspectives on the issue of online harassment, abuse and cyberstalking. Education, information and communication are the keys to solving the complex problems of harassment and abuse online.”
By way of example. the below information on harassment, to include cyber-stalking, is available via click-through on their site. NEW YORK:
§240.30 Aggravated harassment in the second degree.
A person is guilty of aggravated harassment in the second degree when, with intent to harass, annoy, threaten or alarm another person, he or she:
(a) communicates with a person, anonymously or otherwise, by telephone, by telegraph, or by mail, or by transmitting or delivering any other form of written communication, in a manner likely to cause annoyance or alarm; or
(b) causes a communication to be initiated by mechanical or electronic means or otherwise with a person, anonymously or otherwise, by telephone, by telegraph, or by mail, or by transmitting or delivering any other form of written communication, in a manner likely to cause annoyance or alarm; or
2. Makes a telephone call, whether or not a conversation ensues, with no purpose of legitimate communication; or
3. Strikes, shoves, kicks, or otherwise subjects another person to physical contact, or attempts or threatens to do the same because of a belief or perception regarding such person’s race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability or sexual orientation, regardless of whether the belief or perception is correct; or
4. Commits the crime of harassment in the first degree and has previously been convicted of the crime of harassment in the first degree as defined by section 240.25 of this article within the preceding ten years.
5. For the purposes of subdivision one of this section, “form of written communication” shall include, but not be limited to, a recording as defined in subdivision six of section 275.00 of this part.
Aggravated harassment in the second degree is a class A misdemeanor.
Next week, we will publish Part II of this series, bringing to you a checklist, complied by seasoned law enforcement detectives, on what to do if you are the victim of a cyber-stalker. However, if you feel you are in any danger, call 911 ASAP. An ounce of being overly-cautious is a much better value than a lifetime of regret.
Bottom line: Trust your instincts – especially online. These people are virtual and virtually, strangers!
BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.
As always, stay safe.