Internet safety on forums!

Posted by: anonymousone

Internet safety on forums! - 08/21/11 08:58 PM

There's plenty of information and tips out there concerning web safety, but little specific details on the risks and precautions you should take on this web medium in particular. I will talk about my personal story, then go on to make some points to remember when using internet forums in particular.

The reason why I am concerned about this subject, is because I never knew what I would be dealing with, when I started using internet forums. The community spirit often ensnares you in this false sense of security, where you feel you are amongst friends. In reality, you are surrounded by complete strangers. Not everyone is out to get you, but you have to understand that conversing on an online forum is not like every day life. Once you write something on a forum, that information will be seen by more people than you probably realise or anticipate; by people all across the world. Unlike in real life, you do not control who your information will go to, and you will never know what that information will be used for.

I personally met someone whom I believed was a good person online, on a forum dedicated to personality studies. It's a unique forum in the sense that it is peaceful, very open, and the conversations are geared towards who you are as a person. I shared bits and pieces about myself for about 2 years, and came across an array of people, most of whom were lovely. Some of those conversations carried across to email and facebook, in a fairly short period of time. One day, I met this person, who, when meeting me, would have a very good perspective of my personality. And he presented himself in a manner that seemed to represent a dignified personality as well. Eventually we became close, but my view of him shifted the more I got to know him. One day I woke up to myself and realised that the person he presented himself as, was not him at all. It ended in a realisation that this man was potentially very controlling and extremely manipulative after he became emotionally abusive, and I carry with me every day a sense of fear concerning him. Knowing everything I told him about me.

Some things to remember about internet forums:

* Just because it's a nice place, does not mean there aren't bad eggs. In fact, the nicer the place, the more likely there will be predators using the 'nice culture' as a easy ruse. The wolf in sheeps clothing are harder to spot on nice, close knit internet communities. Be weary of anyone who is inconsistent, or who you get the impression may be faking it. Look for someone who is TOO nice in a fake way. If there is one protection you have- it is that fake charm carries across onto the internet too. Compare this person to genuinely nice people. The fake charmer is all image. Also beware of the person who seems to morph to fit the communities model. Everyone conforms to some degree, however, some people (psycopaths and Psychopaths) are known for using external identities to seem 'normal' or 'human'. A person who seems perfect but doesn't seem to have a personality of their own, and instead uses bits and pieces from the community, may be a person who uses image as a tool for their own goals. Not a good sign on the internet, even though they may not be seeking to harm anyone.

* Some people may not necessarily want to 'turn bad' but are opportunistic. On forums, any piece of information may trigger someone to see you as someone they can take advantage of. Psychopaths and Psychopaths are renound for being impulsive, and predators are very opportunistic. It pays to be weary to the 'unknown' factors- i.e. that people who aren't normally harmful, can turn into that when the occasion arrises. Things that can trigger predators include sensitive information (email address, location), your physical and mental health (whether you seem like a prime target), personality factors (trustworthyness, openness, conscientiousness are all weaknesses to be played upon).

* Remember: people are dis-inhibited more online. Meaning, they are capable of doing more damage with less sense of responsibility, remorse or guilt. Psychopaths, predators, and Psychopaths are MORE disinhibited online than offline.

* Online forums give people the chance to express themselves. People share a lot of things about theirself on forums or discussion groups that can end up as profiling tools for predators. I believe that is what happened to me. A predator relies on the fact that you are honest (because they aren't and know you can't think as they do). They know and put together a lot of information about you, and they have unlimited access to it. They have documentation of things you dislike and like, your weaknesses, what you prefer in people etc. This then enables the predator to groom themselves for you, because they know that it's easy to break through someones boundaries without them knowing, by seeming familiar, complimentary, and being the man/woman that's perfect for you. Beware of anybody who morphs according to your preferences. And who seems familiar and like you've known them forever without you having even talked to them before (some people are genuinely easy to click with, other people seem like it's fake).

* predators know an easy target when they see one. They leave small, minute "hooks" from the minute you meet them. A genuine meeting of someone is generally open, light and refreshing... spontaneous. With online predators, it seems like every time you come in contact with them, it's structured; like they are laying down a plan gradually; leading you closer and closer to them. The guy I met online, came on strong at the beginning, and I got the sense that he didn't just want to say hello and see what happens from there, but actually wanted something more from me. He was too keen, and too structured. This is subtle controlling behaviour that is easy to miss. Instead of being spontaneous, their eyes are always on the end goal or end result. Usually people who meet for the first time in a healthy manner, do so without the motivation to "get something" from the other person. Internet predators have likely been able to watch their target for some time. From the minute they meet you, they are after something, and have considered the best way to get it out of you.

* On many online forums, you cannot delete your profile! that means every bit of information you put up, will not be erased, and many administrators do not make exceptions. This can leave you very vulnerable. Always read the rules and regulations of a forum, and consider what you might do if sensitive information ends up online and cannot be deleted.

* Usually forum admins and moderators have access to your IP address and other details. Watch a forum and check out the moderators before posting. Speak to someone who posts there before making an account. People routinely abuse power. Make sure that you are certain the forum moderating team place a concerted effort on safety for all members,and that your data is appropriately protected.

* Some moderators have less experience with online harassers, stalkers and predators than others.My experience with some forum moderators is that sometimes they don't understand the gravity of an online stalking situation. And may not use their powers to adequately protect you. You cannot always seek protection or justice from moderating teams, and sometimes the predator may have connections and protection even from those in power!. If this happens, there is little point in fighting. Retire your account, and get out straight away. Seeking legal advise or psychological counseling may be best to consult thereafter.

* Never use the same handle/screen name/identity, the same avatar or photo, or the same signature on forums. Because somebody can track you easily via this method. Never tell ANYBODY -all- of the forums you visit. Never link/promote or cross post your blogs, websites etc. I have been stalked and harassed via online forums. Once you stop responding to them via email, internet harassers and controllers attempt to control you via other means to evoke fear and isolation. If they cannot control you in private where you can ignore them, they may take it publicly and follow all of the forums or blogs you frequent. Some predators are competent hackers as well; never use the same password on online accounts, and never use dictionary words for passwords. Always use a random allocation of random words and numbers i.e. bad = hellochair. Good = L1l6U89GHF7j9v5

* Hackers have also been known to publicly leak personal messages. Do not store personal messages in an inbox. Store important messages on your personal hard drive (always backed up by an external hard drive!) and delete them in your forum inbox or email account. Change your passwords at least once every 6 months.

* As tempting as it can be, do not place your photo on an internet forum. Especially if it contains loved ones, family members or friends. If you do, make sure it is taken in a neutral setting or environment, where people cannot identify landmarks. Never mention specific schools you've attended or classes you've taken etc, or places you will be heading.

* There are various methods people on internet forums can contact you. If any person leaves you suspicious block them and/or tell an admin or moderator. Do not give them reason to go after you. Do not give them narcissistic supply. Do not respond to their messages, and block anyone who tries to contact you on their behalf.

* Do not give your home address out EVER. Regardless of how much you trust this person. ONLY give out your home address after you've met the person in the flesh, and you've been able to pick up on their "vibes" and seen their behaviour in person. I gave my address out after 3 months of knowing someone online; this was a mistake. I thought I trusted them; at that point I did. Bad behaviour does not show itself in predators until later on. The honeymoon period is not the best time to be giving out the most sensitive of information. NEVER give out your address when they have asked for it (as he did to me, very innocently). Give out your address when YOU chose (not when it is requested), and when YOU feel comfortable doing so and believe it is appropriate.

*NEVER rely on a persons assessment of themselves to judge their character. This is a big trap online where you are forced to rely on a persons self appraisal to get an impression of them. Use your OWN judgement to ascertain the type of person they are. IGNORE what they say and WATCH CLOSELY how they act and behave. Actions > words. Do not assume a person is good just because you've seen what they've said about themselves on a forum.

* Gut feelings and intuition are often hampered online. Accept and acknowledge that your natural defenses are stripped of you, online. Don't assume you know someone when you've spent a lot of time with someone online, even after you've skyped or called each other.

* If you come across a harasser on an online forum, especially after you've broken up with them, don't return. Internet harassers and predators seem to specialise in playing the victim and character assassination. They can turn people against you and usually have many followers because of their charm and perfect self image. Don't take it personally if they have manipulated your friends and allies. Get out of the toxic situation, and cut all ties and connections to the harasser and place of harassment. Get a new email address, keep all harassing or defamatory emails (in case legal action is necessary) even if you don't read them.
Posted by: anonymousone

Re: Internet safety on forums! - 08/21/11 09:12 PM

I will add more things if I come to think of them smile and if anyone also has anything to add, or experiences to share, that would be great too.
Posted by: anonymousone

Re: Internet safety on forums! - 08/21/11 09:29 PM

I also want to add that I'm not one to advocate to be alarmed about things. And to instead be weary. Personally however, I feel that safety on the internet is an extremely serious issue, and while you needn't be afraid, you have to accept the reality that everytime you venture online, you will be in the presence of at least one online predator. This isn't backed up statistically or with research, but given how many people venture online, the probability of you coming across a bad egg is very likely. It is easy to forget this because your sense of danger is not spiked online. You know how alert you feel when you walk down a back alley at night and how cautious you become? that is how you should act online. Using an online forum is like walking down a back alley at night, and I have learned that it does not pay to be naive to this. If you think about the back alley analogy, you can see why it's so important to keep you guard up online. Particularly for those who have an online business, and especially since reputations, careers, relationships and lives can be ruined online.

I must stress that being online does not make pain and betrayal any easier, nor does it live up to the illusion of being safer. If you have children, I would not encourage you to encourage them to use internet forums until they have the emotional and mental maturity to deal with the things you come across online. Internet forums are rife with fighting, social manipulation and sometimes abuse. Children may not only come across predators and highly aggressive people online, but also may be engaging with people who are 10, 20, 30, 40+ times their own age. And may not even realise this. Most people believe that all internet forums are the same, or that the conditions are all equal. NO! internet forums are all unique, and you have to understand the dynamics of each and every one you come across to make sure you know what you are doing. Most people also believe internet forums are simple little things people can just go on, write a bunch of things and then leave. Very active internet forums are like complex societies. They are just like every day social situations. They aren't something you can just go to and leave, especially the ones you spend a lot of time on. They are complex networks filled with more rivalries, backstabbing and immature and unhealthy behaviour then people realise. They can be peaceful places, or toxic and filled with a lot of underground competitiveness and combativeness. I have been on forums that have turned into war zones and people have been hurt, and websites and forums ruined.

On internet forums there are many great individuals, but there are also the scum of the planet as well. It's hard enough for adults to deal with them, children and adolescents are loath to be able to deal with it even more. I started using internet forums when I was 14, and developed a close relationship at that age, to which I was very very naive to the reality of. At that age you believe you know what you are doing, but you don't. Even the most mature 10-14 year olds don't have the capacity to deal with internet forum socialisation, in my opinion. Purely because forums are usually adult environments that contain adult elements children aren't used to, or don't anticipate. As a 14 year old, I could understand there were bad people online. But I never realised the true dangers; simply because I could not think like a predator. This was a few years ago, now that there are even more people online these days, the dangers are increasing.
Posted by: Dianne E.

Re: Internet safety on forums! - 08/21/11 09:47 PM

Thanks so much anonymousone for setting up this section and providing some very valuable tips.

Another word of caution is that you will see that most forums use "free software", the downside of that is the forum administrators aren't in control of your personal information. Here we use our own software that I purchase and it is hosted by the largest and most secure place in the industry. NO ONE has access to your information except for me and it is protected. Naturally a free forum environment would save the headaches and expense but after having been going to forums since the early days, this was the only way that I felt our community would be protected.

Also it is best to avoid a "free forum" if there is a Private Message (PM) feature that you can't turn off, by leaving it open anyone can contact you directly. The software we use has this feature but I have it disabled.

When I first started the forum 14 years ago it was hosted by a friend at their site. It was a gracious move and very much appreciated because there weren't any other victim support forums and by having our forum hosted within their group it gave me the opportunity to see if my hunch was correct that there was a need for such a specific topic. The forum was there for the first couple of years and finally I made the decision to go on our own because I had no control over the rules of how the forum operated. They had a 3 strikes policy before banning a problem person. Here there is a zero abuse policy. They also had a PM system that any person could use to contact the members. Through experience I have found that zero tolerance is the best way to operate, once any person is allowed to be harmful to another member we lose what our mission and tone of the forum. There are hundreds of people who read every month and for their own reasons or fears your words are reaching more people than you would ever imagine by speaking about the issues of dealing with a Psychopath.

Through the years zillions of other forums have cropped up, we don't link to them for the basic reason that not all of them are healthy places to be and I don't consider myself the Internet police so members can find forums that might suit them by a simple Google search. It is always a wise move to read for awhile to be sure of the "tone" of any forum and like anonymousone has pointed out being comfortable how the forum is run is key to seeking the help you need.

Victims have suffered enough abuse and they are safe from any form of abuse here. Along with the no abuse policy, I no longer even read or communicate with anyone who has been banned. I read them for awhile and it confirmed my decision to ban them in the first place. I don't need to read what a #### I am for having the nerve to ban them. Once someone has shown they clearly aren't in keeping with the spirit of our community they are free to find a place that their behavior is acceptable.

I use Firefox as my browser, it is the one that most professional software people recommend. For example when I was using Internet Explorer if I went lets say searching for light bulbs online they use your ISP and every time you turn around ads for that product pop up. With Firefox you can surf without being tracked. They have some very good ad on applications that block the tons of companies that track your every move. Now when I go to a site I see in the upper right corner all the places Firefox has blocked from getting my ISP.

If you are in a situation where others can access your computer I recommend that you add the feature to block your surfing history. That way if someone else is using your computer they can't see where you have been going or searching. Clearly nothing is ever removed from your computer that is why when a crime is committed they seize the computers and it takes experts to dig into your drive. It isn't something a room mate or someone else can do but specialists at lets say the FBI can find the information, criminals still aren't smart enough to know that. It still amazes me when I see a show about a crime how criminals leave a trail and think that by deleting things it is gone for good.

The Internet is a wonderful tool and allows us to connect like our community here. Anonymousone has shared some very valuable information to be on the alert to what you say and do online and to be sure of what kind of crowd is there and how they communicate with each other. Many times companies these days do a search to check out applicants and being wild and open online and posting pictures that you would be ashamed of later can come back to haunt you.

You can use the Internet to your advantage if you suspect the Psychopath in your life is cheating etc. and track them to see what they are really up to. It is also important to understand the rules set by all the free email services out there. Now the larger ones like GMail are on a push to get you to link all your emails through them, is that a smart thing to do, it could be but if you are concerned about your privacy you might find a better source at the Firefox site.

Like anonymousone pointed out anyone can pretend to be whatever they want to be. That is the dark side of the Internet and prime hunting ground for predators. Over the years the list of where victims have met a Psychopath that they became involved with is wide spread, predators like anonymousone said know where to go and find vulnerable future victims, places you would never imagine not being safe like church chat groups etc.

In real life troubled people are easier to pick out from the crowd and even then it is dicey because in order to catch a victim a predator or troubled person has to behave like they are rationale and kind to lure in their bait. The Internet doesn't give you the visual or audio to weed them out as quickly as you would in person. I think the old saying is still true, if a person or deal sounds too good to be true it probably isn't real.

If your computer is set up using a WiFi connection make sure you have the access blocked. Sometimes they come come already blocked but even where I am in this neighborhood I see quite a few that aren't protected and I could log onto their system easily. When the weather is bad and I shut down my computer I can usually tag onto an open WiFi. I am not a criminal so I only use it to not be offline when there is lightning and haven't been studying how to access their information;)

Posted by: anonymousone

Re: Internet safety on forums! - 08/23/11 07:23 AM

^ a very important post, Di! every time I come here, I learn something new! thank you.
Posted by: Dianne E.

Re: Internet safety on forums! - 09/03/11 12:48 PM

Five Worst Celebrity Hacks of 2011

Celebrities are just as vulnerable as the rest of us when it comes to internet security—unfortunately, the whole world hears about their misfortune. Although the average person doesn’t have to worry about notorious hackers trying to get into his or her private records online, our top tips always apply—choose secure Wi-Fi networks for important business. Use a variety of strong passwords. Protect your computer as best you can. And, as applies here, learn from others’ mistakes:

July 2011 – FOX News’ Twitter account was hacked on the Fourth of July, falsely reporting the President’s assassination. This Twitter account had around 33,000 followers at the time, and the news spread quickly. Several hours after the initial posting, the tweets were removed. The Secret Service was alerted, and is investigating the attack.

January 2011 – The Facebook page of Facebook’s very own CEO Mark Zuckerberg was hacked, posting the following message: "Let the hacking begin: If Facebook needs money, instead of going to the banks, why doesn't Facebook let its users invest in Facebook in a social way? Why not transform Facebook into a 'social business' the way Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus described it? What do you think?"

June 2011 – Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton reportedly had her phone hacked by the notorious Jonathan Rees of Rupert Murdoch’s News International, Ltd. Rees is a private investigator who is accused of hacking into a multitude of celebrity phones and records.

March 2011 – The Twitter account of Demi Moore’s beau Ashton Kutcher was hacked while the actor/investor was at a TED conference. His hacker’s first of two tweets read, “Ashton, you’ve been Punk’d. This account is not secure. Dude, where’s my SSL?” Apparently, Ashton did not have an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) connection while using free Wi-Fi on his laptop or phone. The hacker was therefore able to access his Twitter login information. (On a poistive note, shortly thereafter Twitter announced the addition of an “always use HTTPS” user setting.)

January 2011 – Girlfriend of teen sensation Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, had both her Facebook and Twitter accounts hacked. Her messages exclaimed: “Oh yeh, JUSTIN BIEBER SUCKS!!!!” A hacker who may or may not have been the culprit posted a video on YouTube before the errant messages went live, stating, "This video is to show how easy Facebook's new security page is to bypass."

As you can see, hackers have a multitude of motivations for their actions, ranging from harmless to cautionary, humorous (although most people don’t find such attacks funny at all), political, or malicious. Anyone and everyone—no matter how famous—benefits from remaining vigilant and educated about internet security.
Posted by: CleoNeal

Re: Internet safety on forums! - 07/01/12 08:56 PM

A very important position, I learn new things! thank you