It’s every person’s worst nightmare: You find out that your housemate is cyberstalking you. The case of Ryan S. Lin, however, takes examples of cyberstalking to horrific new levels. And for his crime, he has just been sentenced to more than 17 years in jail.
Lin, aged 25, pled guilty in April 2018 of cyberstalking for making hoax bomb threats, distributing child abuse imagery, computer fraud, and aggravated identity theft — all against his former housemate.
The victim moved after just a couple of months living with Lin, but the threats kept on coming. When she moved, he managed to track her down by posing as a pet owner online in search of a pet-sitter. When she contacted him, he managed to get her new phone number.
In total, the cyberstalking campaign lasted for more than 17 months from May 2016 to October 2017. During this period, he sent explicit photos of young girls to her mother. He sent anonymous messages that he was going to rape or kill her (and all of her friends). He even contacted a person she was pet-sitting for and told them she had killed their animal, leading to a confrontation with the police.
These are only some of the crimes that Lin committed. He also called in more than 120 bomb threats to schools and residences pretending to be the victim. Having broken into her iCloud account, he created a collage of her most personal videos and photos and sent it to hundreds of people, including her co-workers, 13-year-old sister, her parents, work colleagues, and more. He also made up a fake account on adult sites and several men showed up to her home seeking company.
The victim contacted the police as soon as the attacks began, but it took over 17 months for investigators to gather enough evidence to put Lin away.
How did this go on for so long?
You might wonder how this scam went on for so long? Lin was a computer science graduate and therefore was adept with computers. He set up several methods of protection, including using foreign servers and the Tor browser. This made Lin tough to track down, but as most people do, he made a few key mistakes that led investigators to him.
Lin was ultimately caught when the FBI got their hands on his work computer after he was fired from his job at a software company. The company refused Lin’s request to log out of his accounts before showing him the door.
- References to making bomb threats
- Texts stalking his victim, her friends, and her relatives
- Evidence of tracking his victim
Much of the computer had already been erased, but the FBI was able to pull enough evidence to prove Lin was the perpetrator of the attacks. They were able to access his Gmail account, see what he had on his iPhone, and even find Twitter posts showing Lin discussing using anonymizing software.
Though Lin was pretty savvy, he clearly wasn’t savvy enough. And while the victim will be relieved that her ordeal is finally over, there’s no denying that those 17 months will leave scars that are tough to heal.
Cyberstalking: It could happen to you
No one is immune to cyberstalking. After all, Lin found his victim simply by replying to a Craigslist ad looking for a roommate. Initially, Lin seemed like a standup guy. But things turned quickly, and even though the victim managed to leave the house, the cyber tormenting didn’t stop until the police got involved.
What could the victim have done differently to protect herself? Well, it’s hard to say. Even with all the right online security in place, you will never be entirely safe. The best you can do is make it especially tough for the attacker by keeping all of your accounts private, using two-factor authentication, and utilizing a VPN whenever connected to your WiFi network.
In this case, for the first couple of months, the attacker was under the same roof as the victim—connected to the same WiFi network. This meant it was easy for him to hack her accounts. A VPN would have protected her from prying eyes in her own home. The attacker would then have to rely on other methods to crack her accounts—like “shoulder surfing.”
Looking to protect your online privacy and security from people seeking to do you harm? Hotspot Shield VPN encrypts your traffic keeping your devices safe from hacking. Download the Hotspot Shield app for free below and make your online security a priority.