John Egan

If you use a MacBook, an iPhone or any other electronic device, you’re susceptible to a new threat for the 21st century: iStalking.

At a session Thursday during the Macworld/iWorld conference in San Francisco, Jacqui Cheng, senior Apple editor at online publication Ars Technica, explained that many of the 3.4 million adults stalked in the US each year can have their whereabouts tracked via the e-trails that they leave. Cheng has written extensively about high-tech stalking; in all 50 states, stalking is a crime.

For potential stalking victims, one key vulnerability in the high-tech era is sharing your various passwords with a romantic partner. Statistics show about 75 percent of stalking victims know their stalkers and many of those known stalkers are current or former romantic partners. (By the way, women age 18 to 24 make up the group most likely to be stalked.)

Cheng stressed that a current or former romantic partner could easily turn on you, unearthing your location and your activities by signing into one of your many online accounts – iCloud storage service, Find Your Friends app, Facebook account and so on.

“One of the best ways to stalk you is through your iCloud account,” Cheng said.

For instance, she said, a stalker can break into your iCloud account and view stored photos that could be a tip-off about where you’ve been and who you’ve been with.

To help prevent a stalker from prying into your life, you should tighten the location and privacy settings for iCloud and other such accounts, Cheng said.

One-fourth of stalking victims report being stalked via some form of technology, such as email or instant messaging, according to the US Department of Justice. Ten percent of victims say they were monitored through GPS.

Citing the recent case of on-the-run software millionaire John McAfee, whose location was revealed through data embedded in an iPhone photo posted online, Cheng recommended turning off the location setting on any camera app you install. If you don’t do that, someone can study photos of you and find out details such as where you live, where you work and where you’re traveling.

“This could happen to anyone,” she warned.

Cheng said a “very determined and dangerous person” will employ many tools – including tapping into online accounts – to stalk someone. By fortifying the privacy and location settings on those accounts, you can impede a stalker.

“Don’t make it easy for them,” Cheng warned. “It’s already easy enough as it is.”

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