On Thursday, October 25th, Kelley Misata examined the human aspects of technology in her presentation, “Looking Through a Different Lens.” Misata associates cybersecurity with an iceberg, which exposes only a small part of its surface while the rest remains submerged and hidden. Misata hopes that her story of sexual harassment and cyber stalking will serve as a cautionary tale for all Internet users to be more aware and in control of their personal information.
In 2007, Misata and a male colleague developed a friendship. When the company had to lay off some of its workers, Misata was the first to go since she commuted to work from far away. Misata tried to break off ties with her colleague, but he refused to stop contacting her. At times, he would even grow agitated, pressuring Misata to remain friends with him. He proceeded to send out slanderous emails of Misata, but Misata, thinking he would grow bored and stop, simply deleted them. In hindsight, Misata thinks she could have incriminated her stalker had she saved all the evidence. Over time, emails accusing Misata of being unfit to raise children reached Misata’s husband and employer. In fact, Misata’s stalker had contacted all of Misata’s friends from Facebook. Eventually, an attorney and friend of Misata encouraged her to seek legal action. Misata went to the police with a binder full of evidence, but the police could not trace the digital thread of the emails. Misata also failed to secure a restraining order since she could not prove the emails came from him. Eventually, federal law enforcement officers decided to take on Misata’s case and monitor Misata’s email account. Her stalker, however, continues to use other email accounts to maliciously harass Misata and her colleagues.
Misata is a living example that crimes can be perpetrated through the Internet. Cyber stalking, however, is much more difficult to remedy than physical crimes. The E-Personation Law in 2010 adapted security to the technological world, prohibiting email accounts set up under false names. Even so, the law is still not adequately equipped to handle cyber stalking. Investigators struggle in determining when the issue is serious enough and usually advise victims to ignore the issue. Andrew Lewman, the creator of the anonymizing tool, Tor, tried to provide a safe haven for victims, but stalkers have abused Lewman’s creation to protect their own interests. Sometimes, law enforcement must admit, “The technology is too advanced.”
Cyber stalking has afflicted Misata with persistent nightmares, hypervigilance, and a sense of helplessness. Many of her associates have merely suggested, “Just don’t go online.” Misata has even been alienated because her associates “don’t want the drama.” For example, Misata’s employer rescinded Misata’s prestigious job offer upon discovering her problem with her cyber stalker.
Misata is indignant because she must bear the burden of proof. While Misata’s stalker remains happily married with stable employment and firm community ties, Misata’s relationships with her husband, children, friends, and co-workers have been strained. Misata never knows when her torture will end.
Nonetheless, Misata still has hope. Misata believes that in order to overcome cyber stalking, we must continue to develop technology-centric safe guards; provide law enforcement with training, education, and protocols for digital forensics; create responsible digital citizenship; help navigate the digital world; and redefine the system. Her mission is to bring conversations about cyber stalking from the Internet to the real world. Only outside the realm of technology can we give victims of cyber stalking comfort and hope.