People harassing you deserve to pay
By Red Squirrel
It's a very long and complex story so I won't get into it and bore you, but I'll simply get straight to the end where it was getting out of hand. Getting followed around forums and such never bothered me much, but one day I had a troll come to the forum and there was an image as a signature, so out of curiosity, I checked where it was hosted, and it went to this site that had a domain name that looked too familiar, it was the name some of the people stalking/harassing me always called me through hate mail and such. I opened up my browser, typed it in, and I was horrified to see modified versions of my face, put into porn etc... It was a 3 year-old Photoshop job, but it simply had to go.
My friends and me had fun trolling at the forum there, it was quite fun. But I should of never got into it, since it only started more warfare with the stalkers.
It just had to go, end of story. I contacted their host, which did not care as they did not really have a ToS like most hosts do, so I contacted authorities. I contacted a organization which is geared to stopping cyberstalking, harassment as well as other Internet crimes. In my case, it was mostly harassment.
Cyberstalking is when people will follow you around on the internet, flame you, say bad things about you and such, on message boards, chat rooms etc. This sort of happened to me as these people followed me around in other message boards, but would usually not post, but sometimes they would rudely respond to some of my topics at some points. But most of the time they would make fun of me at their forum instead, in a section that was created for this sole purpose.
Tracking down cyberstalking
Cyberstalking can be tracked down in many ways, especially on modern forums that allow you to use an image as a signature. Firstly, if you happen to have a web host such as your own server, or a hosting package, you can easily track down IPs with posted images. You can even use PHP as you can make a dynamic image actually run off a script and you can code it to detect certain activity, or simply make it produce a log that is easy to read in order to find such activity, such as categorizing various forums you visit. This is quite advanced and depends on your coding skills, but if ever you need help just drop by our forum or contact me. I have such a script that I made, and has been very effective so far.
Knowing the IP address range of your predator(s) is a must, since this script will still track down everyone that views your posts – not just the bad people. When I had found the site that was harassing me, I immediately set a script to track down people who would go to my site from there, as there was a link to it. This caught a dozen of IPs in one night, which I still hold record of. Only that night I got IPs from that site, after that no more, and the link was still there. This also showed me that it was a pure setup, and that it was not really a full time thing with 100's of actual people. But it still had to go.
Using these IPs, you can search your produced logs created by your image script to see what site they go to and to track down where they follow you. You simply need to put this image as your forum signature. Every time it is accessed, it will simply log it on your host or server. You will know what thread the cyberstalker viewed, and when. You can simply use your raw log file for this as well, but making it a script powered image gives you more freedom to code basically what you want in the actual image, and filters out all the rest of the access entries on your site found in your raw log. The more logs you can produce, the better. This site currently runs 3 scripts that do different jobs. These are friendly towards visitors, but will immediately catch and log suspicious activity. There is a large amount of logs produced by these, but I do not actually check them line by line! I simply do a quick search for known cyberstalker IP ranges, and if I find anything, I investigate further into that specific time frame and as well check the exact threads they viewed, which can be indicated by the referrer part of the log.
These logs can also be good to use as evidence that certain people are stalking you. For example, if you see a specific IP show up in your logs accessing the various sites you participate at. Note: If you change your identity everywhere, this will make it impossible for people to stalk you, but if you simply want to track it down and live with it, that works too, and is good as you can log it. However, there is a catch to this whole system, you need the predator's IP! With more than one person attacking you, this can be tricky. You can also track down matching IPs at different sites, so it can give you a slight idea someone is viewing your posts at more than one forum, but it can also be a user that happens to post at all those places! Never accuse before you have 100% knowledge.
If you want to get a specific person's IP address, it can be done in a rather clever way that is 100% legal. To get their IP, you can send the cyberstalker an email, with an image embedded in it or you can send them a personal message on the forum you get harassed at with an image. Just make sure this is a unique image, and that it's hosted on your server! It is best to do this invisibly, that means you simply slip it through and talk about something else in your message, such as responding to some hate mail or sending a fake bounce email, but be careful not to get too much into it as it's best not to respond to hate mail, which I have a bad habit of doing myself, as it's so tempting, especially when it's someone that is not very intelligent.
As a tracking image, a 1 pixel transparent gif image is the best to use, as there is no way of them to notice it unless they check the source. But if you feel lazy, you can simply put an invalid image, and it will log an entry in your error log but also display as a red X.
Disclaimer: The above information on IP tracking could potentially be used maliciously *by* a stalker. IceTeks does NOT promote the use of this method for any malicious uses, but only for legal purposes such as the ones mentioned above. IceTeks may not be held responsible for any damage done using this method of tracking down. If you believe it is maliciously being used against you, contact the person's ISP. Use it for non-threatening purposes in order to get information on cyberstalkers ONLY.
When you have gathered information on the cyberstalkers or harassing site, you are ready to report. Depending on the nature of the problem, you may need to contact their ISP, or the host of the site. For example, in my situation, I had to contact the host of the site harassing me. The host did not do anything about it, but it was worth a try. If it's simply a few or one person following you around, contact their ISP and show them your image tracking logs to prove it. Their ISP will be able to match that with their own logs. Make sure the logs also have the time and date, and time zone (or you can simply tell the ISP what time zone it is). Explain your situation, that they are stalking you.
If none of this works, it's time to go to authorities. No, not the FBI or RCMP. They don't have time to deal with these as it is a minor crime compared to stuff like terrorism, rape, murder etc. Let them do their job and send your report to WiredPatrol, which is a organization which is basically Internet authorities devoted to things such as cyberstalking.
Use the appropriate form and report exactly what is going on, and provide as much info as you need, they will contact you as well, for more info, if needed, or simply to give you tips on what you can do, but they will also look into stopping it for you, but be ready to help yourself as well. I never reported the fact that I was being followed as they did not do it frequently enough for it to be a big problem, and they have stopped since then, but when I reported the website devoted to harassing me, simply telling them who I suspected and the host, was good enough info. They had the site taken off quickly.
This is the organization that can help you. There is a self-help section which you can simply do on your own to help you, and there is also a form to report any situations that are harassing to you.
This is another helpful section of the site for cyberstalking, simply if someone is following you. The image generated logs can come in handy to track this down. But it can be tricky as most ISPs have various IP ranges, and there's always the odd that there's more than one person with the same range.
This is the home page of this organization, and they will help you with many other things as well. You can report child pornography, missing children, hacking and many more internet-related crimes. If you want to help them out, you can even volunteer.
This is another site to get information on various Internet security/safety issues.
I hope you enjoyed this article and that it was informative to you. If you are a victim of cyberstalking, I wish you luck in ending it firmly.
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