The continued existence of forums like 8chan, despite recent moves by hosting providers to end them, proves it’s impossible to fully stamp out troll communities, industry experts say.
Kaspersky’s principal security researcher, David Emm, told Trusted Reviews there will always be a place for forums like 8chan to hide online and continue operating.
“It can be particularly difficult to shut down these hate forums, especially when they’re able to find a network provider that is willing to host them. If, as happened with 8chan, a provider is unwilling to host the forum, it could still be reachable through the Tor network,” he said.
Tor is a common access point to the Dark Web, which hosts unindexed websites that are unreachable on the regular internet and need specific knowledge to find and access.
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8chan is a rebranded version of the 4chan community. The forum is associated with various far-right ideologies and numerous online harassment campaigns.
It is believed to have played a large part in the GamerGate controversy, which saw members target female game developers and celebrities who disagreed with its users’ views. Its host, Cloudflare, publicly cut ties with it earlier this year, temporarily sending it offline.
McAfee chief scientist and fellow, Raj Samani, told Trusted Reviews that despite the forum’s potential for harm there are steps users can take to protect themselves from cyberbullying.
“To stay protected against trolls, it’s key that your social media accounts are fundamentally secure. Trolls are increasingly becoming tech-savvy and in some cases enjoy taking over a victim’s account to spread hatred in their name. Having a complex password or two-factor authentication reduces the chance of trolls taking advantage in that way and gaining access to personal information,” he said.
“It’s also extremely important to know who follows you on social media and take advantage of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter’s robust privacy options. This enables you to limit who can see your accounts, posts and personal information. If users become targeted on these channels, they each have block and report functions.”
Samani added that, if you’re targeted with abuse, you should avoid the temptation to respond to online trolls and cyberbullies.
“As tempting as it can be to respond to trolls, responding will not only empower them, but gives them a chance to commit a cyberattack by tricking you into clicking on a link or opening a file. This type of phishing attack is extremely effective and can result in loss of personal data including financial information,” he said.
Both experts added you should also follow basic best practice when using online services and use key tools like a VPN service and antivirus software.
You can check out our picks of the best VPN and anti-virus services via the links below.