Top 10 Crimes Made Possible By The Internet

Generally speaking, cybercrime involves a
multitude of criminal activities carried out utilizing computers or the Internet. These offenses are committed worldwide by
perpetrators ranging from sophisticated, state-sponsored divisions in countries like North Korea, Russia,
and China — to that weird kid living in his parent’s basement across the street. Since its inception, personal computers have
evolved into a life-changing mod con that allows us to do everything from watching movies
to paying bills without ever leaving the couch. Criminals, however, are making the net more
dangerous than shopping on Black Friday. It’s also a bit disheartening when the inventor
of the world wide web is now warning of an imminent “digital dystopia.” On that bright ray of sunshine, here’s a
rundown on some of the most darkest types of online wrongdoing. 10. Sextortion As the illegitimate love child of extortion
and revenge porn, sextortion occurs when a perpetrator threatens to distribute someone’s
private or sensitive material online unless demands in the form of sexual favors or money
are met. The crime may also threaten to harm the victims’
friends or relatives for a higher payout. Criminals often target unsuspecting young
people in chat rooms and attempt to record sexually explicit images and videos. Other techniques involve hacking into electronic
devices such as cell phones and computers using malware to access personal files as
well as controlling the web camera and microphone without consent. Law enforcement investigators say organized
gangs from overseas target victims from afar, making it much more difficult to stop. Likely locations include the Philippines,
Ivory Coast and Morocco. If you believe you’re a victim of sextortion,
or know someone else who is, call your local FBI office or toll-free at 1-800-CALL-FBI. 9. Hate Speech With a multitude of social media platforms
to choose from, hate groups now have an inviting place to call home. From Neo-Nazis to ISIS, the Internet provides
a safe harbor to distribute information that’s not only morally reprehensible but a danger
to humanity at large. And as a bonus, it’s also a powerful recruiting
tool. Join today! Despite the recent surge in hate crimes, the
slippery slope of free speech prevents any meaningful regulation from stopping the spread
of racism, intolerance, and fear. Ironically, the very foundation of the U.S.
Constitution is being abused to subvert democracy and deliverance from tyranny. So much for life, liberty, and the pursuit
of happiness. Comedian and political activist, Sacha Baron
Cohen, recently blasted Big Tech in a speech organized by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL),
a group devoted to fighting anti-Semitism. He called Facebook, Google, YouTube, and Twitter
“the greatest propaganda machine in history.” Baron Cohen urged the billionaire club dubbed
the “Silicon Six” ( particularly Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg) to take more responsibility. “Your product is defective, you are obliged
to fix it, no matter how much it costs and no matter how many moderators you need to
employ,” Baron Cohen said. “Freedom of speech is not freedom of reach. Sadly, there will always be racists, misogynists,
anti-Semites, and child abusers. But I think we could all agree that we should
not be giving bigots and pedophiles a free platform to amplify their views and target
their victims.” On March 15, 2019, two consecutive terrorist
shooting attacks occurred at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 51 people and wounding
49. The shooter, a self-described white supremacist,
live-streamed the atrocity on Facebook, where it then spread across the Internet and was
likely viewed millions of times. 8. 419 There’s a good chance that most people by
now have received an email known as the “Nigerian Letter” or “419” (the country’s criminal
code) scam. As the granddaddy of fraudulent internet schemes,
the set up has seen several incarnations over the years, but the basic pitch goes something
like this: Dear Mr. Sir, Hello my good friend, my name is Dr. Givmeur
Monee. Please forgive my haste, but I’m wrytng
about an urgent mater and can offer you $20,000,000 for your assistance. My cousin, a Nigerian Prince and the first
African astronaut to moonwalk, is getting ready to blast off again into space. While he’s away, we need to deposit a substantial
sum of money into a secure bank account. And so on. Despite the absurdity (and notorious) premise,
the ruse still manages to rake in the dough from naive victims. According to the FBI’s website, “Nigerian
letter frauds combine the threat of impersonation fraud with a variation of an advance fee scheme
in which a letter mailed, or emailed, from Nigeria offers the recipient the “opportunity”
to share in a percentage of millions of dollars that the author—a self-proclaimed government
official—is trying to transfer illegally out of Nigeria.” Similar to phishing scams, experts point to
several red-flag indicators: The sender doesn’t know your name
There’s a sense of urgency It’s poorly written with lots of misspelled
words 7. Cyberbullying In recent years, online bullying — often
by adolescents targeting fellow their classmates at school — has become one of the most rampant
violations committed on the Internet. The growth of social media puts many young
people at risk of receiving threatening and humiliating messages or having hurtful comments
or images posted online. The Pew Research states, “59% of U.S. teens
have been bullied or harassed online, and a similar share says it’s a major problem
for people their age. At the same time, teens mostly think teachers,
social media companies, and politicians are failing at addressing this issue.” The results can have damaging consequences
leading to depression, anxiety, sleep difficulties, self-harm, and suicide. Students typically report reasons for being
bullied, including physical appearance, race/ethnicity, gender, disability, religion, and sexual orientation But like other crimes on this list, nobody
seems to have any answers on how to effectively police or deter this growing trend. One might make that argument that kids will
always be kids regardless of technology, and senseless cruelty is to be expected given
their immature, not-yet-fully-developed brains. Perhaps. However, some groups are advocating for more
action, such as better monitoring at schools and stiffer punishment. In 2006, a teenager from Dardenne Prairie,
Missouri, named Megan Meier committed suicide by hanging three weeks before her 14th birthday. Meier’s parents demanded a criminal investigation
and later learned that cyberbullying through the social networking website MySpace resulted
in Megan’s death. The family has since established a foundation
to provide online resources in the education and prevention of cyberbullying. 6. Revenge porn Revenge porn is the sharing of sexual content
without the subject’s consent—usually by a disgruntled ex-lover. Often it’s sent to specific groups of people
(employers, family, friends, etc.) to cause the maximum distress. And it can indeed lead to isolation and job
loss. The Internet isn’t strictly necessary, of
course. In 2014, a man sent his ex-girlfriend’s
parents a Christmas card with a photo of their daughter in an orgy. But the Internet does make it easier. In fact, some sites have specialized in hosting
it — sometimes even linking the victims’ real names to pornographic content online. New laws to combat this problem are widely
considered inadequate. While they ban the websites, they don’t
ban revenge porn itself. But the Internet has come up with a solution! Kind of… You can now upload your homemade porn to an
app that’ll keep it secure. Not only will it encrypt your content to protect
it from thieves/ISPs (and, presumably, the app’s developers); but any time you or your
lover want to view the content, you’ll both have to input your passwords — a little
like the launch keys for nukes. 5. Catfishing Unfortunately, Catfishing isn’t the name
of a folksy lifestyle magazine for anglers but rather the use of phony personas to deceive
other people online. But we’re not just talking usernames here. Catfish personas are complex and compelling,
weaving narratives that can last for several years. And all they really need to get started is
someone else’s photos and the internet. The point, usually, is to live out personal
fantasies — as revealed in Catfish (2010) and its spin-off MTV series. However, motives also include include bullying,
entrapment, and financial gain. Three Chechen girls, for instance, convinced
Islamic State to send them $3,300 by posing as eager recruits. Like deep fakes and disinformation, catfishing
is easier than ever. And most of the victims are vulnerable. One woman was driven to suicide by a string
of catfish personas: first someone she’d known at school; then a British soap actor
and fellow victim of harassment; then his kidnapper; then police investigating the kidnapping;
then the actor’s brother; then the actor again, who claimed the kidnapping was a hoax
by his harasser. The catfish behind these personas, who turned
out to be a woman herself, was eventually tracked down by police. In 2019, she was sentenced to two years and
eight months in prison for stalking six victims in total. 4. Doxing The public release of personally identifying
information (i.e. “documents” or “dox”) has long been taboo on the internet. In the 1990s, hackers lived in fear of their
rivals “dropping dox” in IRC. Nowadays, billions of us leave sensitive data
online — on social media, blogs, forums, business sites, online games, networked databases,
and so on. And it can be gathered with relative ease. In fact, some of the most sensitive data (real
names, photos, phone numbers, home and work addresses) are probably the easiest to find. Doxing (or doxxing, if you prefer) isn’t
even illegal, not in itself. It’s the motivation that makes it a crime,
be it harassment, blackmail, incitement to violence, or some other nefarious scheme. However, the law tends to be murkier when
it comes to social justice. In 2017, for instance, photos of racist protesters
in Charlottesville were dumped on Twitter and identified by other users. Targets reported job loss, alienation from
friends and family, and personal threats and attacks. In the aftermath, opinion was split over whether
the doxing was justified—especially given that some of the targets were misidentified
or misrepresented. This is the trouble with doxing — and with
mob justice in general: It’s all too easy to get the wrong person and often too late
to clear their name later. Hacktivist collective Anonymous knows this
well. In 2013, responding to the Boston Marathon
bombing, they wrongfully doxed a depressed college student who was later found dead in
a river. 3. DDoS attacks DDoS stands for distributed denial of service. It involves overwhelming websites with hijacked
traffic to make them temporarily unavailable. Commonly, it’s used for extortion, demanding
a ransom from the owners to stop. But it may also be used to block the release
of important or sensitive information. Common targets include activist groups and
nonprofits, banks, businesses, news websites, and government agencies. DDoS attacks rely on networks (botnets) of
sometimes millions of individual computers — zombie systems hijacked by hackers using
malware like a trojan horse virus. The last couple of years have seen the largest
attacks of this kind. In 2018, GitHub was brought down by 1.35 terabits
of traffic per second. And in 2019, an unnamed Imperva client received
500 million packets per second (estimated to be the equivalent of up to 3.4 terabits
per second). The hackers themselves are untraceable. But they’re often acting on someone else’s
behalf. Just $150 on the darknet can buy a week-long
DDoS attack, whereas the cost to some targets (e.g. in lost business or damaged reputations)
can be upwards of $40,000 per hour. Of course, DDoS attacks needn’t involve
hackers at all. A popular enough cause could attract millions
of willing participants, and it’s doubtful it would count as a crime. Hence, in 2017, a scheme was hatched to overload on Inauguration Day. The only reason it didn’t work, it seems,
was the White House’s DDoS protection. Many key government websites now have this
— even while the government itself keeps launching these attacks against others. 2. Mass surveillance Among the ugliest abuses of the internet is
without a doubt mass surveillance, allowing governments to track, analyze, and file away
the contact we make with each other. It covers, among other things, our internet
usage, emails and messaging, phone calls, and financial transactions. It places innocent people on terrorist watch
lists and in jail without so much as a trial. Yet, as advocates maintain, it’s supposed
to protect us from crime. So what’s it doing on this list? Well, it’s illegal. US courts ruled as much on the NSA’s collection
of phone records. And the agency’s stubborn lack of transparency
continues to draw ire from lawmakers. Meanwhile, in the UK, GCHQ (the NSA’s British
equivalent) routinely flouts national regulations, as well as the European Convention on Human
Rights. Bulk data collection isn’t even that useful—not
for the prevention of crime. As experts point out, it consistently fails
to prevent school shootings, bombings, terrorist attacks, and other crimes planned in advance. NUMBER ONE: Misinformation The legendary Irish satirist Jonathan Swift
once wrote, “Falsehood flies and the Truth comes limping after it.” Three hundred years later, technology has
rapidly changed, but human nature hasn’t. In a landmark study recently published in
Science Magazine, the comprehensive report illustrates how social media not only relays
messages faster than ever but amplifies false news much quicker and deeper than the truth. And we’re talking Usain Bolt vs. a banana
slug kind of disparity. By looking at nearly the entire lifespan of
Twitter, the study found that falsehoods are six times more likely to go viral than accurate
reporting. Researchers concluded that the degree of novelty
and the emotional reactions of recipients are most likely responsible for the differences
observed. In other words, lies are alluring and fun. Facts aren’t. While a high profile event such as Russian
meddling in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election is well-known, the threat of false information
is a worldwide concern, affecting every level of political, economic, and social well-being.

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