A Lawless Frontier

by Gayle Cue, NSW, Australia

We are now fully immersed in the World Wide Web. The Internet allows us to stay in touch with friends and family, for free, with technology such as Skype and Facebook. We can save hours and hours by doing things online, from banking and making purchases, to distance learning. I can manage my ageing mother’s affairs from the other side of the world.

At the moment, it is a lawless frontier. Anyone can start a blog without the need to show any identification; they remain anonymous by using a pseudonym. The same applies to Facebook pages. There is an emergence of “bullies and bad guys” in the ‘www neighbourhood’. Many of you will have seen the disturbing expose on Insight, where you hear, first hand, from a troll about how they get their jollies tormenting other human beings. Spoofing is now a common online scam. Remember in the early days, you could spot a spam message when it turned up in your Inbox because it came from some obvious spam address. With the advent of spoofing, you now receive spam from well known website addresses … but when you open it up, it’s selling Viagra: it’s a hijacking of an established domain name to sell snake oil. How is this possible, and why can’t it be stopped?

In recent weeks, my website has been “hacked.” Besides costing me time and money, this has seriously undermined my trust and confidence in the World Wide Web. So with the help of my IT guy, we increased the security on my site. We did this in a number of ways, such as installing a different security software and eliminating the “comment” feature. As an additional measure, a PERSON has to complete a math equation in order to gain access to my control panel, or to email me from the Contact Page.

So after I made my site more secure I decided I would also take whatever legal options were available to me. I knew it may not actually result in locating the culprit nor result in retribution, but I figured at least I would feel better knowing I had made the cyber-crime known.

My first port of call was the Australian Federal Police. Of course, I looked them up on the web. While I could see a fair bit about the internet and spam, in particular, I couldn’t really find a form to file a complaint about having my website hacked. I had a polite and vaguely interested person on the other end of the subsequent phone call – (bear in mind, I had already predetermined that they would not be interested). I was advised that while it was unlikely that the AFP would take any action, I was welcome to file the complaint and told how to do so, which I did immediately. Much to my surprise, within a couple of hours I had received an email acknowledging my complaint and providing me with a couple of links that I may also find useful.

One of those links was to the Australian Communications and Media Authority www.spam.acma.gov.au.  I followed up the next day by filing a complaint with them. I now see how jaded I had become because even after the prompt, courteous and helpful response from the AFP, I expected that my complaint to ACMA would go into an Inbox that occasionally got checked, only if someone was bored. How wrong I was. Within 48 hours an ACMA technician called me to say he had looked at my complaint and website; he had some suggestions of how I could improve my security. He would send me an email. A few minutes later the email arrived – with links that will be meaningless to us mere lay people, but good for an IT technician to know about. I forwarded it to my IT guy.

It seems my site was being used by an IP address that is located in Russia. This apparently doesn’t mean much as hackers can use remote addresses to hide the origin of the sender. It’s like using a pseudonym to open an account … they become untraceable.

I’m heartened to know that my spam report to ACMA was received and READ and REPLIED to. I love the World Wide Web and use it everyday, sometimes all day, between work and personal interests and correspondence. Anonymous blogs, trolls, spam and spoofing leaves me feeling like it is a ‘wild west’ of the 21st century. However, with people actually on the job, such as Sue at the AFP and David at ACMA, it gives me hope that we can get the lawless frontier tamed yet.

Other links of interest from the AFP –

http://australia.gov.au/topics/it-and-communications/cyber-security

http://www.dbcde.gov.au/online_safety_and_security

181 thoughts on “A Lawless Frontier

  1. The state of the world wide web is a reflection of the world we live in and the people within. Without laws in place to control abhorrent behaviours it is a free for all for people to do, use and abuse as they wish to. Until people take responsibility for their actions and choose to be loving and express this in life and therefore online, this medium will be free of these qualities and thus need strong legal systems and controls in place to at least manage the harm caused by their lack.

  2. Because of the way it is used, the internet is mostly a sad reflection of the society we live in. But it is also a tool and can be used to inspire and connect with others. We all have the responsibility to lead the way and be role models that light up the world.

  3. I too would have been quite skeptical about that likelihood of receiving a response from either of the companies. Good to know your experience was a successful one Gayle, certainly helps remind me not to go in expecting the worst always, because of course there are people out there wanting to do their job and wanting to contribute to a safer society.

  4. Very inspiring Gayle, thank you. I know the temptation is to allow a bit of despondency to creep in, making committing to communicating with the world more complex than first thought. However I am learning to appreciate the resources that are available to support in whatever way is needed. Corruption has got very devious with technology and it feels like I’m called to keep up and not give up. The voice of truth and love is so needed on the web, it makes sense there are forces that will want to counter this, so our commitment is essential.

  5. I like how you describe the world wide web as the wild west, it makes it so clear that we might think we have evolved from certain ways of living whereas we have obviously not – we simply have changed the playground.

  6. Gayle it was great to read your experiences again. I get spam and phishing emails regularly, I have a good eye for such things so I send them to the phishing department of whatever organisation is being targeted, however I can see how easily these could been seen as authentic and accounts compromised. I’ve also read about online dating scams that fraudulently takes money in the millions annually in Australia, and I’m sure other countries. The cyber world is definitely an area that needs strict regulation and legislation.

  7. What is it that makes some of us think that just because we don’t have face to face contact with someone that we are allowed to bully, harass, vilify and make life difficult for them? It is important that we all play our part in calling this abhorrent behaviour out for what it is, in order that it does not become ‘the new norm’ and scourge of our society

  8. Comparison and competition, to strive to be best at everything – except what really matters, being who you truly already are.

  9. Wow, it is very encouraging to hear that your submissions to the AFP and ACMA got a response; one day it will be acknowledged and legislated for that cyber abuse is a crime – those on the receiving end and their families know it already.

  10. A beautiful example how it all comes back to every single one of us. If each of us is willing to stay with their truth and the care we have for each other no system that we have created can restrict us nor stop us to bring life back to the true care for people.

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