Security risks confronting online influencers and gamers have become increasingly dangerous over the past several years. This level of risk does not only confront prominent influencers but individuals looking to make a name for themselves in this space. The boundary between the physical and cyberspace is increasingly blurred. Hobbies of all varieties are increasingly digital, posted online to thousands if not millions of individuals in the hopes of gaining followers and sharing something you love. This trend has created a risk in which anonymous viewers are invited into the homes of strangers who they increasingly idolize and feel more familiar with, even though the influencer may not know specifics regarding their viewer.
The Current Security Paradigm
Influencers are facing a variety of security challenges, such as doxxing, hacking, swatting, threats, and assault. These threats can be difficult to predict, with no visible signs of risk to the influencer, and are often seemingly random in nature.
- In March 2022, an anonymous user swatted influencer Ethan Klein, the founder of the popular YouTube channel H3H3, and YouTuber Trisha Paytas. Swatting is an act in which someone will deceive an emergency dispatcher to send law enforcement officers to someone’s home by claiming a murder, robbery, or other such crime is taking place. Though Mr. Klein and Ms. Paytas convinced law enforcement of no wrong-doing, Mr. Klein noted it was not the first time this occurred at his home. Swatting has led to the deaths of those who were falsely reported in the past.
- Influencers who live stream while in public are frequently assaulted by seemingly random passer-bys, such as the case with Twitch streamer “Reydempto”, who was assaulted in February 2022 by an unknown man live on camera in Amsterdam. In March 2022 streamer Cashmeow was accosted outside of a restaurant while live streaming on vacation in Japan.
- In November 2021, TikTok user Dolores Cachola-Tapia announced to her 1.3 million followers that she lost access to her Instagram account due to hacking. The hackers demanded that she, and her followers, pay a ransom to return the account. Though she did not pay the hackers, several of her followers each sent hundreds of dollars.
This problem is especially prevalent for children and female influencers who find themselves victims of violent rhetoric, threats, stalkers, and even in-person confrontations. In April 2022, The Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), a nonprofit focused on online hate and misinformation, analyzed more than 8,717 abusive direct messages received by female influencers. Any of these messages can lead to a stalking and harassment, a result which is quite common:
- In May 2022, a 29-year-old former airport police officer was arrested and charged in federal court for allegedly harassing a World of Warcraft streamer. The two met in person at BlizzCon 2019, but when the streamer declined to be his “valentine” and later took away his mod privileges from her Twitch channel he allegedly began a targeted harassment campaign against her, her boyfriend, and her family.
- In May 2022, Lakshmi Devan, an Indian influencer, shared that while on a trip to Goa a stalker discovered where she was staying. Ms. Devan did not share her location or trip plans on social media.
- In February 2022, the father of a fifteen-year-old influencer shot and killed a stalker who broke into the family’s home. Ava Majury, who has more than one million followers on a social media platform, is set to testify against a second stalker, a classmate who allegedly provided personal identifiable information to the individual who broke into her home.
Virtual Reality and the Future of Online Security
As the online space expands and evolves, influencers have too. The evolution of online interactions for influencers and users, particularly through the development of virtual reality spaces including Meta’s Horizon Worlds, has led to a new set of security challenges. Virtual reality users are frequently reporting incidents of sexual harrassment and assault against their avatars in these spaces.
- In May 2022 a researcher from the nonprofit advocacy group, SumOfUs, reported users convinced her to disable the setting and used their avatars to sexually assault her avatar while others watched.
- During Horizon World’s beta, a tester reported her avatar was groped by a stranger’s avatar. In response, Meta announced that testers and all users, have access to a “Safe Zone,” a protective bubble where no one can touch, talk, or interact with them.
Addressing Harassment Online
There are limited resources to address the rising security concerns against influencers because many individuals do not understand what they are or that they even exist. When a company introduces methods to stop sexual harassment it often puts the onus on the players and victims to stop their own harassers.
Creating laws and guidelines is difficult due to the internet’s amorphous nature. There is no single body that is responsible for the rights and safety of those who participate online or in virtual worlds. More so, current laws around the world vary in their complexity and capability.
Given the current landscape, deterrence through discipline remains paramount. Yet it is often difficult to determine the identity of those who threaten or harass influencers and other online users. The internet provides many avenues for anonymity and users often go unpunished or simply create a new profile when banned.
How Concentric Can Help
Concentric has the experience and proactive tools required to provide forward-looking security solutions to aid influencers and gamers who face a gamut of threats and risks. We can identify threats before they occur and provide mitigative solutions if they do take place. Our services include:
- Risk assessments that identify persons of interest among influencer’s followers;
- Cyber vulnerability assessments which identify weaknesses in an influencer’s cyber practices to help mitigate hacking and doxxing attempts;
- Eclipse by Concentric that scrubs personal identifiable information from the internet and provides solutions for ransomware;
- Executive Protection agents that accompany influencers and gamers during high-risk events and travel to deter threats from random individuals and followers;
- Active intelligence monitoring of open-sources, such as social media sites, and deep and dark web monitoring that identify and escalate immediate threats which would go unnoticed by influencers and gamers.
Author: Timothy Davis, Concentric’s Intelligence Analyst for Global Intelligence