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What is cyberstalking? | The week Great Britain

The growing problem of cyberstalking is in the spotlight after a man who created hundreds of fake social media accounts to stalk and harass people online was sentenced to nine years in prison.

Matthew Hardy, of Northwich in Cheshire, would “relentlessly text” his dozens of victims, leaving them “in constant fear that they would be watched and what would happen next,” he said BBC.

The unemployed 30-year-old molested at least 62 women over 11 years, making him “Britain’s worst cyberstalker” to date, according to sources The guard. But cyberstalking attacks are “on the rise,” the paper added, with calls for the National Stalking Hotline that such harassment has increased by 20% since the pandemic began.

internet tracking

Cyberstalking “can be defined as malicious or obsessive web following,” said cybersecurity expert James Bore The Telegraph. “Stalkers track down their victims and follow them through social media. You could even locate them in the real world and try to contact them there.”

Stalkers can hack into the victim’s social media accounts or create fake accounts on their victim’s behalf to obtain information or spread lies about them. Online channels such as emails and chat forums are also used to terrorize people, as well as other digital means such as text messaging.

According to Cheshire Police, serial cyberstalker Hardy has “created fake profiles on social media to befriend men and women across the UK and he has sometimes posed as friend or family to gather information about them who.” would cause embarrassment,” the BBC reported. “After gaining the trust of his victims, he sent them messages that he knew were a lie to create rifts in their family.”

Cyberstalkers like Hardy “take advantage of our increasingly digital lives,” The Guardian said. Some “use spyware, drones and even smart kettles and CCTV”.

Experts from the National Center for Cyberstalking Research at the University of Bedfordshire have warned that “other forms of pre-existing stalking can be carried over into online environments”.

A 2015 study by the center found that cyberstalkers are often “Internet addicts who have lost touch with the real world,” she reported Sky news. The psychologist Dr. Emma Short, co-author of the study, said that such behavior “can be a result of Internet addiction, such that your cyberstalker’s ability to form normal, healthy relationships is impaired.”

“That part of your life starts to crumble and you become more invested in and more fixated on online relationships,” Short explained.

time in prison

Harassment and stalking, whether in person or online, are classified as criminal offenses under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.

The maximum penalty for harassment or stalking is six months in prison. But if harassment makes people fear violence, or if stalking involves fear of violence or serious alarm, the maximum sentence is ten years.

In December, a 44-year-old former soldier, Carl Davies, from Flint in Flintshire, was sentenced to two years and eight months in prison after being found guilty of harassment for sending death threats to the former BBC breakfast Presenter Louise Minchin on social media. He also warned Minchin via Instagram that “your daughter is being raped.”

“never heals”

The crimes of cyberstalkers “cast a long shadow” and shake many victims’ sense of security, according to The Guardian.

Abby Furness, a 22-year-old dancer from Brighton who was stalked by Hardy, said: “Now I’m just worried. It doesn’t leave you It’s like a cut that gets deeper and deeper over the years. It never heals.”

People targeted by Hardy “lost friends, family members, relationships and career opportunities” as a result of the stalking, the newspaper reported. “One terrified victim slept with a baseball bat in hand,” while another “kept a samurai sword by her bed.” Some “were diagnosed with depression and anxiety and required medication.”

And Covid-19 lockdowns “made it easier for stalkers to terrorize their victims,” ​​said The Telegraph. The stalkers “had more time” to “hunt their prey,” while forced isolation left many victims “more vulnerable” and “unable to get support.”

“Stalkers used to wait outside people’s homes,” the newspaper added, “but now they target victims inside their homes via a computer, phone or tablet.”

https://www.theweek.co.uk/news/crime/956313/what-is-cyberstalking What is cyberstalking? | The week Great Britain

Fry Electronics Team

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