Is It Easier for Hackers to Invade the Privacy of One’s Home Without Being Caught?

As I was researching for my presentation on privacy issues, I came across an interesting article entitled, How the FBI Found Miss Teen USA’s Webcam Spy (Anderson, 2013). Espionage tactics are infiltrating the everyday lives of so many, that even the most unsuspecting, vulnerable victims fall prey to the voracious appetites of cyber-stalking peeping-toms. I for one, now keep a post-it taped over my webcam when my laptop is in use since I lack the technological insight in detecting when someone is attempting to infiltrate my software. By no means am I inferring that deterring spyware is as simple as taping a post-it over one’s video-cam. Although, some may call this an act of paranoia and others may call this good ol’ common sense in taking protective/preventative measures when it comes to staying one step ahead of the ‘bad guy’ (who ever that person(s) may be). Invasion of privacy in one’s home becomes a war zone when a victim’s personal space is infiltrated and violated in such a manner. This is unsettling as well as unacceptable. Stronger safeguards, firewalls, and tools are necessary to detect and deactivate unwelcome spyware.  According to the article, a computer science student, Jared James Abrahams, age 19, from California frequented hackforums.net to learn how to distribute software like DarkComet (a remote hacking tool) to victims as well as learn the intricacies of remote administration tools (RATs). Needless to say, there are very few 19 year olds who have the maturity and fortitude to understand the serious consequences that ensue when such boundaries are overstepped.

The question remains, did Abrahams’ quest for academic achievement drive him over the edge by pushing the boundaries of ethics to satisfy a deranged, sinister lust? Or, was it the cowardly act of an immature 19-year-old “testing the waters”, hoping that he would not get caught? Or, should someone monitor similar “hackforum.net” sites (similar to the way terrorism chatter is monitored)? Does “Big Brother” need to keep a tight vigil? I will table this “Freedom of Speech” debate for another forum.  Yet, how can such acts, that invade one’s privacy, continue without serious consequences and justice? The article notes that Abrahams’ webcam spyware affected as many as 150 computers. He took hundreds of nude photos of unsuspecting victims, then blackmailed his victims by threatening to post these photos online. One such victim, Miss Teen USA, Cassidy Wolf, “has made the issue [cyber stalking/ bullying] a signature one of her year as Miss Teen USA. She appeared on the Today show yesterday to say that ‘it makes me feel really good to know I helped [other victims] out as well… I just think it’s sad he chose to do this and kind of put himself in this big dilemma'” (Anderson, 2013). Wolf was a brave warrior by going directly to the FBI cyber stalking unit to report  Abrahams’ blackmail threats, which opened up a lengthy investigation leading to the 19- year-old’s arrest. On average, a victim’s age ranges between 18 and 32, while the average age range for perpetrators is unclear causing difficulty for law enforcement and protective advocacy initiatives to reach those who are at most risk (both victim and perpetrator) within this demographic arena. Preventative measures, including the education of the pitfalls of cyber stalking, need to be ramped up. The urgency for implementation of legislative initiatives of strict “zero tolerance” laws needs addressing. It is essential to deter perpetrators from overstepping virtual boundaries and deflect the vulnerability of uneducated victims. A preliminary course of preventative action would include the education of parents and their children, as young as pre-school, on positive cyber etiquette, the values of courtesy, the respect of boundaries, and the privacy of others before venturing into cyberspace.

What are your thoughts?

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