I shall be covering five topics in this article, all are interlinked, and all are forms of ‘Cyber-Bullying’. Just because you do not see your aggressor, face-to-face does not diminish the impact they can have on a victim or victims as an ‘Invisible’ perpetrator. No one is exempt from the tactics used by the ‘Cyber-Bullies', young or old, experienced or not in the ways of the Internet. Everyone is a target, only experience, shared and then applied information, observations passed to the correct authoritative parties and applied diligence by each of us that use the Internet, can finally slow, halt, stop and then begin to reverse this trend, that is seemingly out of control but this is not so.
It is not my intention to preach to the converted, or suggest tips to experts in the computer field, rather brass tack information that is easily applied by most people. The bulk of the suggestions here do not need any programming skills at all, just a bit of common sense.
Everyday a constant battle waging against such people, everyday perpetrators are caught, everyday new methods to avoid detection are created, and everyday methods to avoid detection are destroyed, blocked from ever being used again by them.
This Battle goes on behind the scenes; the perpetrators do not carry a sign saying, “Hey, I'm an Internet Bully". Likewise, those hunting them do not carry a sign saying, “I hunt Internet Criminals". No, it is a cloak and dagger business. As an ordinary user of the Internet, you play a key role in this daily battle. Simply by applying some of the advice given below to your web activity will help to make the Internet safer and harder for the ‘Cyber-Bullies’ to achieve their goals, easier for the Internet crime fighters to catch the offenders.
One of the biggest sources of information to the ‘Cyber-Bully/ Criminal’ is your ‘Hard drive’ yes, the one you got rid of when you trashed your old computer. The one you threw in the rubbish when you upgraded to a bigger one. The one you sold so that you could afford the brand new super-duper better computer that could do everything but make a cup-of-tea. Okay you wiped it / formatted it / clever you! Rather a case of ‘Stupid you’ every hard drive contains a range of personal information on it, from the cat's birthday to Aunt Edna's home address, from your email address book to your personal Bank details, all very useful information to the ‘Cyber-Bully/ Criminal’. All recoverable by software you can only dream about, guess who has it? That is right you guessed correctly. Passing on your old hard drive also allows the illegal copying of legal ‘Operating Systems’. As each illegal copy comes to the attention of Microsoft', they are locked the original copy as well from any further updates. This is not a ‘make money’ move it is a ‘make safer’ the Internet move, all pirate software has flaws that allow bugs, viruses etc onto the offending computer far easier than a ‘legal’ up to date secure ‘Operating System’ does.
- Do not sell on your computer with the hard drive in it.
- Do not trash your old computer hard drive at the local dump.
- Do not leave it out hard drive for the bin men.
- Do not pass it on hard drive as a present to someone else.
- Do not sell add on hard drives or give away etc for the same reasons.
- Do remove your hard drive and store in a safe place.
- Do destroy your hard drive if no longer needed by you.
How to destroy the old hard drive: With a hammer, embed it in concrete, or lose it in the Sea. Nothing else will destroy the drive or any of the contents on it.
Every hard drive removed by the rightful owner is one less the ‘Cyber-Criminal’ can buy in bulk; literally, container loads of old computers are regularly purchased to further their activities. The hard drive you got rid of last week could be ripping of umpteen friends and Aunt Edna in a day or so from now. The method to do so was on ‘Your old hard drive!'
Your recorded CDs etc with data, personal details on etc, should be shredded or at the very least scratched heavily to destroy the readability of the CD for exactly the same reasons.
You have not won anything: One of the Cyber-Criminals favourite bullying tactics is the ‘Lottery’ prize awards. ‘Microsoft’ do not run lotteries at all, National Lotteries of various countries etc rarely if ever run such events to online persons, the chance of winning is way below ‘Zero’. All emails are designed to fool you, ‘Bogus’ Telephone numbers routed to another country, Plausible false names, along with extremely bad English are all methods used to fool the ‘fools’ amongst us.
Junk mail: Do not open it ‘ever’ check it has not been ‘spammed’ by mistake from a genuine sender by reading the header only. In the event that this is not the case then delete straight away, (More reasons for this are further on in this article).
Do not use your name as an email address: Unless you absolutely have to, never use your real name in an email address, no ordinary email user needs to do this. By using your ‘Real Name', you supply all sorts of traceable help to ‘Cyber-Bullies’. Failing to use your real name on the web was frowned upon a while back, now it is becoming a necessary step to protect ones self from Identity theft, the higher your web profile the more chance of being a victim of the ‘Cyber-Nastiness’ on the Internet.
You email address is yours: Email allows you to send mail to everyone at the click of the mouse; the click sends everyone the entire list of recipients as well. Meaning that everyone gets to know ‘so-and-so's’ email address, that they did not know before or your best friend did not want known in the first place, silly you! Next time you send a blanket email, use the BCC facility, then your friends, associates or family will not get everyone's address just yours and their own. You do not share your home phone number or home address with everyone you do not know. So why do you believe you have the right to share everyone's email address without the owner's permission?
Never open unknown received mail: Just because an email has not gone into the ‘Spam’ file does not mean it is safe, if in doubt do not open it, instead instantly delete it. In the seconds it takes to open it, a ‘Trojan', ‘Virus’ or ‘Key logger’ can become active, trawling your address book and hard drive passing itself on invisibly to other people you know or do not know. Doing the same to their computer as the ‘Bug’ is doing to your computer now. The latter will sit there on your hard drive recording and sending information to an unknown to you at all computers somewhere else in ‘Cyber-World. '
Never open unknown received attachments: The reason above also applies. In the second it takes to open it, a ‘Trojan’ or ‘Virus’ can be active, trawling your address book and hard drive passing itself on invisibly to other people you know. Some viruses sit for months like time bombs before becoming active, making them hard to locate or trace back to source.
Always use reputable valid and up to date ‘Anti-Virus’ and ‘Spyware’ programs and also ‘Legal’ computer ‘Operating Systems’ and ‘Software’ programs - the crucial bits missing from pirate software, make it much easier for others to get into your computer from the other side of the world (or even next door!).
Log all chats: Each ‘Chat’ program has the facility to record onto the hard drive every typed word and most pictures (or references) and emoticons used by both parties. Please activate it and keep a copy of every chat (Parents, activate it and store everyone's chats in your own partition, for everyone's peace of mind. Trusting your siblings is one thing, making sure they are safe is another). Would you let them have a total stranger in your home? This is what you are doing now. The chat record could be very useful if a loved one ever goes missing for no apparent reason, it may help find them faster and in a healthy condition again.
Be aware of meeting others: The stranger you are going to meet, you know the one you let into your home and life everyday, sometimes several times a day, the one who has not shared a true photograph of themselves. Told you little about them apart from what you wanted to know, possibly later than direct a response to your questions. Please take these wise steps before going to meet them for the first few times.
- Arrange a public place to meet, never meet in a secluded place or building.
- Take a friend with you, or arrange to meet them later at said place.
- Ring a friend regularly to let them know you are all right (this can be coded if you wish) never txt anyone as there is no proof it is ‘You’ sending the txt on the mobile.
- If you do not take a friend with you, arrange a time to meet and place before leaving home and do not leave this spot no matter how much your ‘New friend’ wants you to.
- Any suspicions you may have make your excuses and leave fast.
- Your teenage friend could so easily be someone much older.
- If everything is okay, great, have a good time but remember to follow the safety rules above.
Habits of chatter: We all have a limited command of our own language and each language has a limited number of ways to use a particular phrase. By reading a chat message, it is possible to see something that you do not know or understand, just as if you are listening to someone speaking. Just as you would ask ‘what do you mean’ verbally, you can do the same in a chat message as well. In the event that you do not understand the response, or it seems to indicate an ‘exciting’ do this answer, be careful it may not be someone in your own age group or someone who can be trusted. Parents, if your sibling starts talking in words above their own natural ability to date, or showing an interest in something far too old for them, listen and take note, flying off the handle too quickly could easily push this issue away and become a secret to be kept from you. A sudden change in vocabulary may be a sign of an interaction outside siblings known friend and adult associations. It is much better to observe, listen, and discuss than to ‘shut the stable door’ after the horse has bolted.
Watch for grooming: All the clues to this are visible in changes in a persons behaviour, be they young or old, taking on ‘new’ words wanting to do ‘this’ or ‘that’. Dress code may change as well, when you hear words like - ‘so-and-so’ does this. . . ‘Does that’ or ‘I want. . . ? Etc’ the selling pitch is like an advert to millions on TV, except here it is aimed at a perceptively naïve youngster. The fact they are starting to trust and believe an ‘Invisible’ electronic friend more than someone in the ‘Real’ world is another subject, nevertheless just as big a problem.
Infatuation: Very similar in many ways to the above paragraph and very closely associated to ‘normal’ everyday life. Changes in behaviour may slip in and free usage of names etc easily linked to friends, films or TV and ‘natural’ growing up, quite possibly the same as known ‘for real’ go un-noticed as similes’ with net activity and ‘real’ friends are not usually noticed in many cases. Some habit changes may go un-noticed at first, accepted as just a part of growing-up.
Secrecy: We all like to have and keep secrets from others, with the intention of dishing out a surprise ‘gift’ or ‘treat’ at the appropriate time. The secrets I refer to are neither of these, rather the secrets laid in by ‘devious’ manipulation of a youngsters mind. These secrets may become evident due to a ‘slip-of-the-tongue', do not press for an answer, instead wait patiently and introduce it another way. A one parent firing squad is ‘out’ bring the matter up gently as if a ‘secret of yours as a teenager’ for example may be a way to dig it out, if you know your sibling well, this will not pose a problem. However, in the event that you are too busy with your own life. . . No matter how little you know your child, you will be aware of habits, care or not will have noticed changes taking place.
Changes of habit: See grooming and infatuation as well. Habit changes are noticeable in many ways, but not as easy if the youngster is a loner or has only a few friends. Eating habits could be a clue here, suddenly loving peas or carrots for example, or, not eating fruit, maybe wanting a curry every day. Over many centuries, foodstuffs have been a weapon used against others in many ways; this is simply a variation on a theme, wishing to cook or lay the table could be links, or are they? ‘One Swallow does not make a summer. '
Groomer likes / dislikes; this is where you can learn to use your memory, linking the above four entries together, may provide many clues to who your siblings’ ‘Mystery person’ is. Habits, clothing, and food are some, along with films, music, or TV Heroes. The liking of black things is a phase most youngsters go through, this may not be a help. However it is a clue, just as for example ‘Strawberries’ are suddenly a favourite dish whereas they did not like them till recently, could be the clue needed to enable the authorities to catch an offender and return a loved one back to the family fold safe and sound.
Photographs: Posted photographs and shared photographs may not be the person or persons in them at all. In several cases where a youngster has gone to meet the ‘new friend’ for the first time, the ‘new friend’ has turned out to be a lot older than photographs posted on chat etc, sometimes the excuse given is that ‘so-and-so’ is doing. . . ‘So I have come to meet you in their place and will take you to meet them ‘X’ asked me to apologise for not being here. ’ (Or words similar to this example)
Lack of photographs: Why? Maybe they are new to ‘chat’. In the event a picture never appears after talking them through the methods or you have doubts, end the ‘electronic’ relationship, it is better to be safe than sorry at the end of the day.
Webcams: Does the other person on chat have a software problem? Is the chat set up correctly, is a webcam actually attached, settings may show one is present but actually is not. Which ever applies it does not matter who it is at the other end, never put on a ‘floor show’ for the other person. Especially if you never see them at all on their webcam, or accept invitations to do so by unknown parties, you never know who could be watching. Many children are tempted this way by ‘groomers’. Near enough, every webcam has a USB, remove, and lock it away when not needed or record its activity in your partition most can be. This is another variation on the ‘safe than sorry’ rule.
Any noted suspicions are worth noting down, any clues are worth remembering, and be it an observation of yours, a friend, or even a sibling. In the event of something going horribly wrong, then a clue like so-and-so likes / dislikes ‘tomato's’ could be the very clue needed to apprehend and get a loved one returned safely home. Literally any suspicions should be reported to the correct authorities, let them decide it is their job not yours.
No one is exempt: Everyone gets junk and scam emails, be it Mr ‘Microsoft’ Bill Gates, your favourite film star or singer, even me, efforts are made to curb this daily threat but without employing many of the suggestions in this article, it is a hard battle to win. Now my own spam emails received is low at around five or six items a week. If your IP address gets hi-jacked, you can send spam unknowingly. A few months ago whilst on holiday I found that despite not being on the Internet during the 5 days away that 1000 spam emails had been sent using my IP address. The matter was resolved 6 weeks later and the offender caught, literally, no one is exempt from the ‘Cyber-Bully’ or Internet nastiness out there today.
Bank emails: There are always plausible reasons given to get you to respond to them, many are from banks that you do not have an account with at all. Never open or respond to them at all, if it is from your bank, go to the nearest branch and sort it out there, not over the Internet or phone, many bogus emails use false logos, and ghost embedded addresses to fool the recipients into responding. In the time it takes to re-read this paragraph, a computer operator elsewhere in another part of the world could electronically rob your bank account!
EBay emails: Have you brought anything in the last few days? Has anyone brought anything from you? Apart from the odd promotional email from ‘EBay’ or maybe a follow up question from a buyer or seller - You know who they are; there is no need for ‘EBay’ to contact you at all. Any such emails can be deleted without a second thought. The contents look good and the links work to bogus sites - not ‘EBay’ - they usually contain ‘bugs’ of various descriptions, all designed to get into your computer and feed back any useful information found on it. Want to see EBay's latest offers, go to the EBay website much safer than opening the ‘offer you can not refuse’ email.
PayPal emails: The scenario is very similar to ‘EBay', again they look good and just like all scam emails they contain false links, sometimes phone numbers, impressive reproduced layout and a lot of ‘English’ spelling mistakes. (A fact many non-native ‘English’ speakers miss completely when responding to ‘scam’ emails. ) Along with other poorly educated people, they happily answer all questions asked and lose thousands every day to these ‘Cyber-Bullies’. The same rule for PayPal special offers applies as well.
Phone numbers are not: It is possible to buy phone numbers for other countries and many do this for genuine legally accepted reasons. Just because it is a ‘UK', ‘USA’ etc number to ring, does not mean your call (along with the bogus contact name) is going to that country. Invariably the call never does, answered in a completely different country to the one dialled on your phone. In the event that you find such a number in an email, there is a very high chance that is an attempt to reassure that the email is genuine.
Lottery winner: Bin them! Do not waste a second opening them, each one is aimed at making you a lot poorer and the ‘Cyber-Bully/ Criminal’ a lot richer. You have not won anything at all. Your lottery winnings are false, every lottery has a ticket with ‘Your’ chosen numbers on it that will be in your possession, not faceless individual, - Foreign lotteries; do not normally sell outside their own national borders. Again badly written ‘English’ gets thousands of greedy individuals to empty their bank accounts chasing the mythical money they have not won, not only not won - The winnings never exist at all! - If the email were on paper, the paper would be worth more than the contents written on it.
Inheritance emails: Again bin them without opening them, the wording in the mailbox as to ‘From’ and ‘Header’ contents usually give them away first, if any is present in the header that is. As with any unknown names if in doubt - ‘Delete’ without opening. The header usually wants you to contact someone; this someone has a false name and phone number and is only intent on passing you along a chain of fraudsters getting you to part with as much money as possible on the way. Later after a few months respite they get in touch with you again and go through the whole rip-off process again. Think about this: ‘Why they do not know your name if you are actually inheriting such a large sum of money?'
Microsoft Junk emails: Microsoft do not, repeat do not send junk emails, nowadays nearly all Microsoft emails are by subscription only, only sent by request. You can happily delete any you have not asked them to send, as they are unlikely to be from Microsoft at all.
Password request emails: If your mate across the street, a stranger in the bar where you have a beer, or a bus passenger asked for your password, bank details etc, would you give them to them. No! So why do people happily do so to an unknown plausible electronic inquiry? These details are yours and yours alone not for Jo/ Joe Public - Keep them safe!
Never write them down; Use a clue to remind you, never write the password down just write the clue down. Anyone can find it in your absence or even in front of you without you knowing.
Use different on each website: Try to group your site passwords so that in the event that you have many of them if a password is found, the password will not give access to all of the websites that you use, just a few. If there are several passwords on one site make sure that every password is different, adding a figure at the end of the main password is not a good idea.
Change each month: Regularly change your passwords; it is in your own interest to do so and prior to this if you suspect someone else may know a password. A second option exists; if you do not use particular websites regularly, use the sites password reminder service, yes it takes a few minutes of your time but is well worth the effort involved.
Never share them: All the items in this section apply to this portion of advice.
Never email them: Not even to yourself (many do this) as there are no sure ways of keeping the contents safe from prying electronic eyes if a key-logger gets into your computer. (More on this subject later)
Ignore requests to others: The passwords that you use to access ‘Chat', ‘Windows', your various accounts etc are yours and ‘Unique’ to you! No one else needs or needs to know them, not even the company website that you use, only their computers do. In every case, individuals are ‘locked out’ from this information and no one has any right to ask you for it. Electronic reminders are just that, no human is involved in the reminder at all. Many systems do not send it; they send a temporary replacement instead, so that you can re-access your account. (A step that stops interception of the email whilst in transit to you)
All are lockable: Every ‘web site’ is lockable from your browser, just as every unwanted ‘email’ or ‘chat individual’ may be locked on the relevant provider. All responsible parents on every computer in the home should take these actions, before any problems start in the future.
Sell your web address: That token fee of 1 Euro / $1 / £1 etc is more than just a means of verifying the users age, in many cases it is a ‘Yippee’ another sucker has given us permission to go on a spending spree at their expense. Result; loads of extra expenses many will go un-noticed by you as the Credit Card is usually paid by Direct Debit, with no questions asked by the Card owner at all.
Tracker cookies implanted: Cookies are useful aids that enable regularly visited websites to open faster. Unfortunately, there are also ‘malicious’ cookies; these tend to turn up in emails and some downloaded programs as well. Employing the email precautions above will help reduce them, as will regular virus and spyware scans and updates of said programs. Another precaution you can take is to ‘Save’ rather than ‘Run’ a new program that you download, this will enable you virus and spyware programs to scan and remove any problems before they get the chance to ‘hide in your computers registry. Many new ‘Bugs’ self-duplicate, meaning you will get it back within seconds of removal as its clone left behind elsewhere in the registry reproduces itself.
Key-loggers implanted; Key-loggers sit there on your hard drive recording every keystroke and mouse click that you make. Then your computer sends this information to another (Unknown to you at all) computer in ‘Cyber-World’.
At the time of writing, There are sadly still several thousand missing children in the world related to ‘chat’ and other instant message issues. There were a little over 4,100 recognised frauds in progress and a list of 419 recognised Internet Fraudsters at large, with 420,000 frauds deleted from the Internet. A large number of hi-jacked IP addresses by unknown parties. With your help in adopting as many of the above advice items, larger numbers of Internet crimes will be solved and the perpetrators caught and punished. Even better still thousands of children will be re-united unharmed with their families and the ‘groomers’ will not be able to lead many more astray in the future.
Another point not yet clarified as ‘a fact’ is ‘chat’ systems being used as an extension to street and playground bullying, to incite violence or crime on the victim against other victims, keeping the ‘actual’ aggressor/ perpetrator safe and sound.
Websites to note:
Internet fraud - http://www.fraudwatchinternational.com/
Child web safety - http://www.thinkuknow.co.uk/
There are many more, most countries have them, in some form. Your first priority should be to contact your local Police in the event of personal issues and missing persons, they can help far quicker and will take all the necessary steps needed both where you are and contact more specialised units/ teams as needed.
Please enjoy the Internet it has a wealth of information on it and the vast majority of users are genuine, the minority spoil things in the ‘Cyber-World', as well as the ‘Real World’. Be safe not sorry, together we can stamp out ‘Cyber-Crime’ - ‘Cyber-Bullying’ and develop a safe ‘Cyber-World’ for all.
Enjoy your life and help others to enjoy theirs, together we can make this border free Internet safer, together Internet crime will be reduced. Everyday people like me are working behind the scenes to give you a better safer Internet, everyday the Internet gets a bit safer for all. With your help, we can all be winners and stop the minority from running our lives, fuelling our fears and feeding our limited knowledge to blame those who are not guilty in any way for the minorities actions against us all. By Dr. Peter James - Independent researcher, writer, and web tactician.
Dr. Peter James aka Boffin1157 was born in the late 1950's in the United Kingdom. He is currently living, working and tutoring in Northern Romania and is engaged to Dr. Cristina Felea, daughter of Romanian writer Victor Felea (1923-1993).
Among his numerous qualifications to-date are a degree in Psychology and another in Forensic Psychology, the latter is his speciality.
Dr. Peter James wrote a book covering the topic of self-help entitled A Better Life For You! - Your New Independence Day? (ISBN: 142086811X; 13 9781420868111), published in August 2005 and widely available in a ‘Print-to-Order’ format as well as electronically.
Boffin1157 is currently engaged in further studies on everyday behaviour and in tutoring privately and as an ancillary advisor for a Romanian University. He is also involved in translation work with/for various persons.
He has a keen interest in photography and has produced a number of photovideos using only stills taken on his Olympus E500 camera, these can be found at various locations on the web by searching ‘Googling’ etc, his alias ‘Boffin1157