How to fight cyberstalkers.

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Accessed on 10 September 2021, 1418 UTC.

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Get Your Life Back From a Cyberstalker
I write about cultivating a private digital life a lot in these newsletters because it seems everyone wants a piece of your existence. It could be advertising companies using cookies to track your browsing habits, or worse, an ex-partner checking your text messages and call history via stalkerware. Those situations are bad, but this week, a reader email reminded me that total surveillance is the ultimate nightmare.

A reader contacted Neil J. Rubenking, Lead Security Analyst here at PCMag, and shared a harrowing story about a hacker who took over their relative’s digital life. The attacker did it all: read their email, changed their passwords, and altered settings to remove operating system security features. The victim felt helpless to stop them. Rubenking deduced that the attacker gained control of the system via a remote access Trojan (RAT), a type of malware.

What can you do to combat a RAT infestation? First, you need to get a new computer, smartphone, phone number, and email address. The scorched-earth policy is the best way to deal with a digital life takeover because it doesn’t give the hacker any more chances to infect your new accounts via your old devices. Use a strong password on your new computer account, sign up for an encrypted email service, enable multifactor authentication on all of your accounts, and install a password manager to keep track of all of your new, complex passwords. Of course, you’ll need a clean install of a security suite as well.

Recovering from a total account takeover can be expensive and annoying, but don’t waste any time in reclaiming your life after an identity theft catastrophe. Make privacy-first decisions and stick with them moving forward.

Stay safe,

Kim Key
PCMag Security Analyst

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Learn How to Stay Anonymous Online
Remember the adage, “On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog”? You know that’s an old meme, because, currently, it’s simply not true. No matter who you are (human, dog, cat, or any other being), everyone from the government to Google knows what you’re doing online. Companies deliver targeted ads based on that information, and every day, that potentially sensitive personal data leaks in breaches and hacks.

PCMag Features Editor Eric Griffith put together a roadmap for protecting your identity online and outlined several methods for masking your activity. For example, you can use anonymous smartphone accounts to wipe away your digital fingerprints. Remember to avoid opening or clicking links in spam emails too, or, even better, mitigate spam altogether by using a fake or disposable email address to sign up for services online.

The only way to stay anonymous online is to stay offline, which is not ideal. However, using common sense and privacy-focused software can reduce spying, targeted ads, and ID theft when you browse.

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For the latest cybersecurity news and information, please check the blog sidebar, links, and twitter posts.  Thanks for joining us today.

Russ Roberts