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.

231 thoughts on “A Lawless Frontier

  1. Life can be like an unruly playground with unsupervised children or we can set boundaries from an early age along with a modicum of decency and respect so we can start to live together in full harmony and what you have shared Gayle certainly shows that some are open to this level of living.

  2. In terms of cyber abuse and cyber crime it could be said that the internet has externalised what’s going on inside people, that may otherwise have remained hidden. Because it’s unregulated it’s a platform for people to express without regard for others, and indicates the level of indecency, disrespect and irresponsibility some people live in.

  3. ”The Lawless Frontier’ When I read these words I’m reminded of lawless frontiers of the past: imperialism and colonialism of continents, where invaders were free to do as they pleased, subjugated and killed millions of indigenous people. We are being shown a tiny fragment of how it is to be relentlessly attacked with no recourse to law, decency or respect. If we do not relate our twenty-first century experience to events of the past, we fail to see that what is happening now has happened many times before and much more tragically.

  4. This is a great lesson in taking action to report misuse of the internet and not just angrily accepting as the norm.

  5. When we only rely on the systems we have created, or use them to our advantage, the systems will run us, but when we come from our heart in everything we do it is compassion and true change that is on offer.

  6. We live in a World Wide Web of energy that moves freely through the artificial frontiers humans have built up. Most of the energy that circulates though is generated by individuals who live in separation from themselves and who feel free to shower us with the unsettlement they experiment with day after day.

  7. Those who want to abuse the internet are becoming ever more sophisticated and due to our general inertia they keep one step ahead and will do until we are willing to see the corruption that allows this lawlessness to proliferate.

  8. It seems that, after all these years from when this article was written, and despite all the efforts from the amazing people in governmental roles who support change, the global internet that we have is still a lawless and abusive place which has actually become even worse.

    1. Is this because we don’t actually want to change anything? I know enough about the technical side to know that if we wanted to stop the rampant abuse and disregard on the internet we can, what seems to be lacking is the collective will to do anything about it.

  9. The world wide web is such that when things happen like this there is little authorities can do to trace and prosecute offenders, however there is a lot they can do to support people to support themselves to prevent things like this happening in the future. Unfortunately the web has taken off around the world, before we had a chance to look at how it will best serve people. Therefore the criminal and other elements have had plenty of time to get a foot hold (or 2 foot hold).

  10. Spam mail has become extremely sophisticated and if we don’t do anything about reporting incidents like this then we are accepting corruption as our norm. I love that you followed up on the whole process Gayle bringing more awareness to the scale of the problem at hand.

  11. I was recently contacted by someone online that straight up asked me an explicit question under the guise of “looking for a cheap laugh”. I disagreed and mentioned that such a greeting would not be acceptable in person so why is it ok online? One thing the internet is going to eventually show if that it doesn’t have to be physical to be abuse and what goes on in our heads actually can and does harm others.

  12. So true it is a lawless world out there on the net, where governments and countries are perplexed and confused themselves with what to do.
    The problem is this issue should have long long ago been nipped in the bud, instead it was left to fester and now to much of a problem for even governments to deal with.

  13. It’s makes no sense that we have a pocket of life that is not properly law-fully controlled, why are they laws that in physical life deem certain behaviours acceptable or not, yet online you can get away with whatever you want. It seems to me a recipe for disaster and that we need to catch up fast with our laws.

  14. Like so many things that can support humanity, make peoples live simpler and more efficient we find a way to abuse it, not caring the turmoil it can cause to people and how much it can affect our lives. It is great that you spoke up Gayle and didn’t give up, each of us has a responsibility to call out any form abuse, on the internet or otherwise.

  15. W.W.W. With people who are ‘real’ is very conducive for us to be connecting in the most loving ways and therefore maybe a safe web should be set up for all those who feel to opt out of the W.W.W. and the Dark W.W.W. maybe a consideration is a living web and call it L.L.L. “Lived. Love. Livingness?

  16. It is great when we judge something (ie a government department you think is just going through the motions of tick box bureaucracy and will end up not helping) but are proven wrong.

  17. The internet allows behaviour that would not be accepted offline and leverages the power of the smartest criminals in a way that may not have happened very often in the past.

  18. I think that the internet is much like driving a car – so many seemingly calm people get major road rage when isolated away from people and seemingly able to explode without the person it’s directed at knowing. Online, seemingly normal everyday people become abusive and say things they would never say in front of people, things that if they said in public could get them arrested, but is allowed when said anonymously online.

    1. Yes it is amazing how when we feel we are hidden either in the bubble of our cars or behind a keyboard that we can get away with abusive behaviour that we would never entertain if we felt we were going to be exposed. Anonymity gives a protection that is too easily abused and needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.

  19. The WWW is what we make it and it is our responsibility to use it with respect and decency ensuring that whatever footprint we leave it is one that offers more love, not less.

    1. I agree that personal responsibility when it comes to how we use the internet is paramount – we cannot discount the ripple effect of integrity in a sea of bile, ugliness and irresponsibility.

      1. Agreed Meg, but a tsunami is in the making with the elephant as our stampeding expression of Love that will start from that ground swell or ripple affect of those who choice to live Loving-ly.

      2. Set the standard and live to that standard. Then we sleep well at night knowing that, to the best of our ability we have been true and lived with Love.

  20. When we own a store and it is being robbed or the windows have been smashed we report it to the police and there will likely be an investigation. It is very interesting that it is so different with websites and them being hacked, it is like we see all that happens online as not really real so not really as bad as when it happens in ‘real physical life’. This is where a change is needed because for someone to hack a website the same intention is used as for robbing a store or smashing a window.

    1. Well said Lieke Campbell. I have noticed this too. There is a kind of brushing off and turning a blind eye that happens on the internet that is more difficult in real life, either that or a reaction and then we close the lid of the laptop or move on to something else on the phone and quickly forget. Those that actually are being trolled on the internet..how can they forget ? Too many people are taking their own lives or having nervous break downs, becoming mentally and emotionally unstable because of bullies who count on the rest of us doing nothing.

  21. It is very interesting how the support is there to help us when we have been hacked, so to speak, but that there is little to nothing being done about the prolific use of the internet to bully, coerce, judge, scam, attack, put down and hack another’s identity. Why is this the case, is it simple to support and suggest ways to deal with such a privacy invasion after the fact, but to actually do something about the criminal behaviour is not easy, so therefore not addressed.

    1. I agree Leigh. I read comments on social media and on media articles and there can be a lot of comments that are very abusive, if not by words, certainly by intent. There is the basic foundation of respect and decency that is sorely lacking here. There is little consideration for the fact that there is another human being (or more) that is being referred to. Sometimes someone has made a mistake, which needs to be acknowledged and sorted but certainly not abused. We have a lot of work to do in this arena to make sure that respect and decency is the foundation to all of our communication on the internet. We can do more but this remains our beginning point.

  22. Yes Gayle unfortunately the Internet is a ‘lawless frontier’ and no accountability for trolls or cyber abuse. The tide is beginning to turn with this but very slowly, how many more people have to be harmed and abused or even commit suicide before more accountability and stronger laws are made to protect innocent people from this?

  23. The world wide web indeed is a lawless piece of no man’s land. It is time to get some serious legislation in that will prevent the obvious harm people are causing. Just like in the real world there is only a couple of bad guys who need to be taken off the internet. But those guys (or girls) have to be acted upon.

  24. About 20 years ago it was lawless and people were generally helpful with a few ugly corners that would mushroom. Now there is a law – the law of the user being the product to be bought and sold by a number of large companies and the welfare of the companies takes precedence over the user, making bigger and bigger areas of the internet more and more vile.

  25. The whole World Wide Web is a wonderful platform that is super supportive for nearly everyone in daily life. It says it all though when there it is also the largest brothel that has ever existed on earth.

  26. In these situations we might feel powerless because there is not much that can be done because of all the pseudonyms and anonymous people yet standing up for it and putting in a complaint is very important to do. It is not because most people have given up that standing up does not have an effect, it has an effect because we say no to it energetically too when we do this and even though this is not acknowledged it is very powerful.

  27. It was great to follow through with your complaint Gayle, I guess some people don’t bother because they think nothing will come of it, but you found out differently.

    1. Yes, each complaint makes a, sometimes substantial, difference. Each withheld complaint encourages what perhaps should not be encouraged.

  28. The World Wide Web is an amazing tool for many things when used responsibly, the problem is there are a minority of people who use it as a challenge to hack website, data, or in general just be a nuisance, and others who go out of their way to hurt innocent people, there has to be more laws to protect users and prosecute those who flout the law.

  29. With the talented IT professionals we have in the world, if we wanted to correct the lawlessness of the internet it could easily be done. The issue is as a race are we willing to do that.

    1. Yes, it is a political issues. Quite a few countries condone criminal internet activity on their home soil.

  30. Thanks for sharing this Gayle. It is good to hear that your email did not simply disappear into cyber-space. The web is a powerful reflection for us all, allowing us to see just what sort of world we are living in. I feel it has the potential to show us that we need to change big time, to be much more responsible with our expression, our words, our actions – so long as we do not become ensnared by it, but observe it and stay free of reaction.

  31. A web is always a construct that allows to create new angles, new geographies, new points of connection between points, and offers to creators and users new paths to move on. A web is also a trap for others, a point of dominance, a space claimed for yourself irrespective of anything else, a barrier to free movement of others. The WWW brings together the good and the bad of a web. Yet, all together, it is a massive trap that does not help us to evolve.

  32. Thank you Gayle. I found it heart warming to know that you had support in dealing with the internet problems you had. I feel that we need to campaign for more regulations as regard world wide webbing and have laws passed to address the internet trolls, hackers, abusers, all those guys out there who are making life difficult through their interference, disruption and focussed ill intent.

  33. When we are so used to something to be seriously bad, even a tiniest of good seems like a giant diamond. Reading and replying to an email is a simplest level of decency, and to do so while getting paid for it is called doing the job.

  34. Great title Gayle, the internet certainly has become a ‘lawless frontier’ where people have confused freedom of speech with freedom to slander, hate and abuse. It is completely despicable what is allowed on the internet. There does need to be some changes in laws for sure to support what is going on more.

  35. Oh I love that you were heard and that you got support! I too had a preconceived picture of how that was going to go and I am so please you proved me wrong and you have been able to share this with us. I feel I have learnt something very practical and, in fact, essential this morning!

  36. Great to see an article with action, real action. Where are we heading with the internet. We are seeing it as almost another reality and yet it impacts greatly on the reality we have. In fact they are the same reality it’s just that they look different and yet many people would say the internet is having the same and yet more of an impact on their lives than the physical public domain. We all need to catch up to what we are seeing and what is going on because in cyber space you see a ‘do whatever you life’ approach to everything and even when a crime is committed in the reporting of that is no guarantee that anything will truly be done. The internet has us bemused, it’s a normal part and in fact an essential part of life for most and yet we don’t treat it as that in all areas.

  37. Thank you Gayle, it is encouraging to know that there is support in the community to counter a ‘lawless frontier’. I really appreciate you sharing the information as my knowledge of technology is very limited.

  38. Pseudonyms need to be banned. It is not that hard and if society called for it, there would be action to make it happen. Are we willing to be seen?

  39. For everything we create in this world there will always be pluses and always negatives to counter – it is just a fact.

  40. I appreciate the importance of the information you shared Gayle, and I’ve taken note. Most of us do not own a website, and are not tech savvy. These days it’s a must to learn and should be a fundamental in education. I’m in IT and trust me there is always something to learn. What I have missed in my training is the basics to building a confidence in technology and, finding true support when you need it. Because it is not in the training how are you expected to know, how is the non-tech person able to receive it. IT is a profession and a continuous learning platform for us people in the industry – this needs to be thought of in the design of new technology for the ‘untrained’ minds.

  41. 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.

  42. 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.

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

  44. 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.

  45. 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.

  46. 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.

  47. 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.

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