Panama City (PA), November 2016 - Brianna Wu is an American female game developer who was driven out of her home two years ago by death threats and abuse on Twitter from members of GamerGate community. The last straw, the one that made Ms. Wu leave her home, was a tweet showing that her home address had been detected by bullies.
Over-sharing personal information online, such as one’s home address, is one of the reasons why cyberbullying can come into the physical world and truly threaten people’s lives and property. Cyberbullies can persecute their victims everywhere they go, and even their home cannot be a refuge anymore.
Even if people avoid posting their personal data online, such as their social security numbers, it can be recreated by an algorithm that uses person’s private data and place of birth (usually shared on Facebook). A person’s medical records can be detected by combining their zip code and date of birth.
The privacy paradox shows that even though people express serious privacy concerns and fear identity theft, they still tend to reveal their personal details online for small rewards or for the sake of creating their online persona.
NordVPN is a virtual private network provider that stands firmly against all forms of cyberbullying and has a goal of educating the public about what each person can do to stay as safe online as possible.
1. Understand that no one is an exception from cyberbullying or identity theft. According to research, people believe that identity theft often takes place online, but they are very skeptical about it happening to them. As one extensive study showed, 56% of the respondents didn’t consider the likelihood of identity theft happening to them.
2. Realize that everything you post online will stay online. Tweets or photos that people post as a college student will still be there when they are company directors down the road. Therefore, online privacy might have a different value to the same person after some years. To stay protected, don’t post anything now that you might regret later. To avoid blackmail or extortion, don’t share personal or embarrassing photos with anyone.
3. Avoid sharing personal data on Facebook. Do not enter your address or phone number on Facebook where it can be visible to anyone. Do not create status updates sharing vulnerable information, such as showing that you are on vacation and your house is empty.
4. Don’t over-share feelings, not only data. According to one study, people who share their feelings on social media often get bullied, while others look on and allow harassment to happen. It’s more advisable to share personal feelings in close and friendly circles than publicly.
5. Protect your location. You can hide your actual location by using a VPN, a virtual private network that hides your IP address and your location. By connecting to another country’s server, you can set your location to virtually any place in the world. NordVPN is one of the most advanced VPN service providers in the world, as it uses leading industry encryption methods and keeps no customer logs.
6. Protect your passwords. Some forms of cyberbullying include targeted hacking and identity theft, which means securing your data is of utmost importance. Exercise caution and, among other things, secure your passwords. Passwords should be a mix of characters and special symbols, and they should never be shared with anyone. It’s always advised to change passwords periodically in order to stay safe online, and this means having to use a unique password for each site or account. “1Password for Families” is an app that allows a family to share passwords, credit cards, and other sensitive information. The app remembers everything, keeps the information safe, and signs you into your favorite sites with one click.
7. Understand the dangers of free public wi-fi. Cafes, shops, and even school cafeterias offer unsecured wi-fi networks. Users need to be especially cautious when connecting to these networks, as they can easily be monitored. Hackers can easily position themselves as a wi-fi hotspot or use special software to steal data from unprotected networks. One of the best ways to safely use public wi-fi is by installing a VPN.
8. Educate children and teens about cyberbullying. Forty-two percent of teens with access to the internet say they have been victims of cyberbullying. Besides not sharing their private information online, teens, who are generally more vulnerable to personal attacks and prone to hurting themselves than adults, should be taught basic tactics of dealing with a cyberbully. The tactics include not responding to bullying messages, blocking the bully, and reporting the incident. Schools should have systems in place that allow easy and efficient cyberbullying reporting.
Cyberbullying is a huge problem for anyone using the internet and this includes teens, children, adults, all countries, and all professions. Unfortunately, it cannot be avoided because cyberbullying is not caused by technology; its source is human behavior, and technology only enhances it. The best way to protect yourself is to stay as private online as possible.