Thursday, October 23, 2014

Be a harder target

kw: book reviews, nonfiction, self defense, hacking, stalking

I thought I was getting a book about defense against hacking, but found something quite different, and quite salutary. Cyber Self-Defense: Expert Advice to Avoid Online Predators, Identity Theft, and Cyberbullying, by Alexis Moore and Laurie J Edwards presents help to avoid or escape the ten most common kinds of predators, all of whom are prone to becoming stalkers, and these days, all of whom find it easier and easier to track their victims online.

I really don't want to give predators who may read this post any ideas, so let me just say that if you find yourself being abused or stalked by an abuser (all predators are also abusers), you need one of two things:

  1. If you can, make yourself an unattractive target. Predators get their kicks from getting a reaction, and failing to react, as excruciatingly hard as that may be, will often induce them to turn attention elsewhere. However, sometimes this enrages the person, and then you need to get out. Don't try to fight back, because you could get killed.
  2. Get professional help. Can't afford it? The book contains an appendix full of resources, many of them mostly subsidized or free, including Survivors in Action (SIA), which author Alexis Moore started after barely surviving an abusive relationship followed by years of cyberstalking and "remote control abuse".
The best defense is avoiding trouble in the first place. Don't present yourself online – or anywhere! – as the kind of person an abuser is looking for. You only think you can handle yourself. Overconfidence is as dangerous as acting the put-upon low-self-esteem victim. The old proverb, "Flattery will get you nowhere" is so untrue. A predator knows flattery opens nearly every door. It is so darn hard to be immune to flattery! That is why every society with any longevity favors either long courtships or arranged marriages (and the breakdown of such practices is the principal reason American society is on the wane, and might become extinct).

In every relationship, there is a pursuer, and a pursued one. If you are being pursued by a flattering, attentive suitor, it is so exciting! Try this, when asked to "meet privately": Suggest the person visit you and your parents and perhaps all your siblings, for a nice evening of conversation, over a favorite table game or jigsaw puzzle. You can learn a lot from someone by watching how they play cards or Scrabble or work a puzzle. You may also find that the person becomes noticeably cooler, and maybe cuts off or winds down the "relationship". That's OK, good riddance!

Of course, it may be that your abuser is a parent, sibling, grandparent or other close relative. If so, get the hell out. Go several states away. If there is no trustworthy friend or relative, call SIA or another service in the book for help. Change all your passwords and your phone number. Go, Go, GO! If possible, that part of your life must be over.

Bottom line: if you are the least bit attractive, paranoia is a very sane attitude. Oh, and if you have any passwords less than 10 characters long, or you let anyone look over your shoulder when you log in, you're asking for trouble.

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