ss_blog_claim=27c167cdb8f8a240a14959527b4317db Trolls, Flame Wars & CyberStalkers: March 2010
Saturday, March 27, 2010
Case# 63 The Bad Boys of Cyberspace
Getting Known Through Anonymity

Much has been said lately about how anonymity on the internet "disinhibits" people. Feeling relatively safe with their real-world identity hidden, they say and do things they otherwise wouldn't normally say or do in "real life." In some cases, that seems to be a good thing. People may be more honest, open, generous, and helpful. In other cases, however, the nasty side of a person gets unleased.

I'd like to give a slightly different spin to this "disinhibition through anonymity" concept. My basic premise is this: NO ONE WANTS TO BE COMPLETELY ANONYMOUS. No one wants to be totally invisible, with no name or identity or presence or interpersonal impact at all. Everyone wants and needs to express some aspect of who they are, to have others acknowledge and react to some aspect of their identity. In some cases, it's a benign feature of who you are. In some cases, not.

Anonymity on the internet allows people to set aside some aspects of their identity in order to safely express others. Snerts need someone to react to and affirm their offensive behavior. This need is a bit different than simply catharting their frustrated drives, as the "eros-ridden" idea suggests. Snerts are trying to express some unresolved and warded-off feature of their troubled identity in an (often desperate) attempt to have it acknowledged. Unfortunately, they do it in a way that abuses other people. Under ideal conditions, they may be able to accept and work through those inner feelings and self-concepts that torture them. If not, they will continue to vent that ooze through their online snert identities, while safely dissociating it from their "real world" identity.

Does greater anonymity result in greater deviance? It's an interesting question. Because greater anonymity usually is associated with less accountability for one's actions, the answer would seem to be "yes." (snipped)

The higher prevalence of misbehavior among anonymous users may be more than just a "disinhibiting" effect. Rather than the anonymity simply "releasing" the nasty side of a person, the person may experience the anonymity - the lack of an identity - as toxic. Feeling frustrated about not being known or having a place in the group, the new user acts out that frustration in an antisocial manner. They need to feel that they have SOME kind of impact on others. It's not unlike the ignored child who starts acting "bad" in order to acquire attention from the parent, even if it's scolding and punishment. The squeakiest wheel. Humans, being humans, will almost always choose a connection to others over no connection at all, even if that connection is a negative one. Some snert guests may think (perhaps unconsciously) that their misbehavior is a justified retaliation against a community that they feel has stripped away their identity and alienated them. They reject because they feel rejected.

In rare cases, people who are well known in the community may become the trouble-makers. Social psychology has demonstrated that people with power and status often have "idiosyncrasy credit" - they are given a bit more leeway in violating some of the less critical rules of the community.

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Investigated by yngathrrt @ 12:26 AM
Link To The Evidence| 0 Notes
Friday, March 12, 2010
Case# 62 Stalked for Years by Her Own Cellphone
Woman's Ex-Boyfriend Stalked Her for Years Using Software on Her Cell Phone


Technology makes it easier to connect with the people in your life, but it can also enable others to connect to you without your knowledge.

People can learn all about your private life through your cell phone, and one woman said she was stalked for three years because of it. Susan, who asked that her real name be kept private because of worry over her safety, said her ex-boyfriend tormented her using only her cell phone to do it.

"He knew where I was all the time," Susan said. "If I was at dinner somewhere. He would text me and ask me how dinner was. I had no idea how he knew where I was."

Most people know that the GPS in a cell phone can track your every move, but that's just the beginning. Widely available software that can be installed on almost any cell phone can track not just your whereabouts but also your private conversations and personal information.

"I thought I was going crazy," Susan said. "It's just unnerving knowing that somebody 24/7 knows where you're at, what you're talking about, what's going on, everything about you."

At the time, Susan didn't know that her ex-boyfriend installed spying software on her phone when she wasn't looking. Once installed, he could be anywhere -- even in a different state -- and follow her every move.

But what was worse, it didn't just track her whereabouts. He could listen in on her phone calls, read her text messages and turn her personal cell phone into a bugging device. From anywhere, he could activate her speaker phone and listen to everything she was doing.

"He would text me, 'How was dinner? Was the date good?'" she recalled.

Susan's ex-boyfriend would also show up places where she was. She feared for her life and called the police, who put her in protective custody. When her ex-boyfriend violated the restraining order, he was put in jail on felony stalking charges.

"He had every intention of killing me," she said. "Within 20 minutes of getting out of jail, he was outside my hotel room."

Security expert Robert Siciliano says he gets countless e-mails from victims of cell phone spying.

"When somebody remotely activates your phone, you're not going to know it and they can use that phone to monitor the conversations in the room you're in," he said. "Your phone could be sitting next to you while you are watching TV, and somebody can actually log into your phone and can actually watch what you are watching on television."

Cell Phone Spying Software Affordable, Powerful
A 2009 report from the Department of Justice found that one-quarter of the 3.4 million stalking victims in the U.S. reported cyberstalking, and GPS technology and other forms of electronic monitoring were used to stalk one in 13 victims.

"GMA" found thousands of sites promoting cell phone spying software, boasting products to "catch cheating spouses," "bug meeting rooms" or "track your kids." Basic cell phone spying software costs as little as $50, but for a higher price the software enables anyone to do exactly what Susan's ex-boyfriend did.

"Someone can easily install a spyware program on your phone that allows them to see every single thing you do all day long, via the phone's video camera," Siciliano said.

"GMA" spent $350 to get the features that remotely activate speaker phones, intercept live calls and instantly notify you every time a call is made.

We installed the software on a colleague's phone, with her permission, and sent her out to see how it worked. We were able to intercept and listen in to a live phone call without her knowledge, and she didn't even have to be on the phone for us to spy on her. We could also turn her phone into a remote listening device no matter where she was. If the phone was on, we heard everything she said.

"This is no sci-fi flick," Siciliano said. "This is the real thing and it's happening to people right now."

It's perfectly legal to sell the software but not necessarily legal to use it, although that's in the fine print.

For people like Susan, the laws, which vary from state to state, haven't caught up to the technology. Police say there aren't specific laws on the books to address this type of stalking, as opposed to the physical stalking that led to the restraining order.

When it comes to cell phone spying, "The cops kept telling me there's nothing we can do," Susan said. "He's not breaking the law."

Protect Yourself from Cell Phone Spying
Susan changed her number 10 times, but it didn't help because the spyware was on the phone itself.

"I'd go and change my number at the cell phone store, and he would be calling me on my way home on my new cell phone number."

After three terrifying years, Susan realized the software was on her phone. She got a new one and it seems the nightmare has ended.

"You're never the same after this," she said. "I think you become a lot more aware of your surroundings, you're not as trusting. You just make it day to day and keep living."

Safety experts say that if you believe you've been the target of cyberstalking, trust your instincts and ask for help.

Indications that spyware might be on your cell phone:

The screen lights up for no reason
The flash on the camera goes off when you're not taking a picture
You notice ambient noise in the background when you're on a phone call
You repeatedly get strange text messages from an unknown origin

Never let your cell phone out of your control -- spyware can be installed on it in as little as a few minutes.

If you think spyware is on your phone, security expert Robert Siciliano says you have two options: Get a a new phone or call your cell phone service provider. They will tell you how to reinstall the operating system. Reinstalling the operating system should wipe out the spyware.

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Investigated by yngathrrt @ 2:24 AM
Link To The Evidence| 0 Notes
Wednesday, March 03, 2010
Case# 61 Online Stupidity Can Get You in Big Trouble
Gregory Steven Hart lives behind black metal gates in a house full of computers, elegant sculptures and expensive liquor that he never drinks.

Three days after Christmas, Deputy Sheriff Russell Hemmendinger hauled Hart to jail. The charges were driving with a suspended license and resisting arrest. The deputy took him down in the driveway of his $367,000 Lutz home, in front of his pregnant wife and neighbors.

Hart posted bail and went home and got to work. Within 24 hours, the first concerned citizen e-mailed the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.

From: tom and ray
Subject: Is Officer R. Hemmendinger Gay?

Has Officer R. Hemmendinger ever had sex with a boy that's under the age of 16?


Hart is 43, a database developer for a massive health care corporation called Baxter International. He has a clean record, aside from nearly two dozen traffic tickets - mostly for speeding and running red lights - in the past decade. These led to the license suspension, which led Hemmendinger to his doorstep.

Hemmendinger is 31, married, a Pasco deputy for three years. His record is spotless. Citizens have written the agency to commend him for good work.

Hart claims that during the arrest Hemmendinger "started screaming and yelling hysterically at me ... like a lunatic." He returned from jail and began digging. He says his research convinced him that Hemmendinger was a homosexual pedophile.

A reporter pressed him for evidence.

"I can't go into detail," he said.

Did he report the supposed transgression to the Sheriff's Office?

No. He says couldn't trust them to investigate.

Hart had another idea. He has his own software company, Database Engineers, as well as a computer armed with a program called Atomic Mail Sender and a list of addresses known to accept spam.

Hundreds, perhaps thousands of e-mails screamed into cyberspace:

Who is Pasco Sherriff Officer R. Hemmendinger?

How is he a suspect as a child molester?

Is he homosexual?

Does he have sex with boys under the age of 16? Regularly?

Contact the Pasco County Public Information Director ...

Demand to accept ONLY the truth!


One of these e-mails reached Pasco Deputy Eric Pfenninger, who alerted Hemmendinger, who reeled with disbelief. The e-mail led to two sites, and, at least one of which advertised an upcoming gay dating service called Hemmendinger Homosexual Haven.

Hemmendinger plugged the name into an online service that lists the owners of Web domains. The answer came back: Database Engineers Inc. The sole officer was Gregory Hart.

Hemmendinger notified his superiors and denied the allegations. Meanwhile, the Public Information Office took more than a dozen phone calls and nearly 70 e-mails from citizens.

The public-information officers told the citizens it appeared to be the work of a malcontent bent on vengeance. The agency did not conduct an internal-affairs investigation. Public Information Director Kevin Doll said there was no evidence with which to start one.

On Jan. 12, Hemmendinger filed a lawsuit accusing Hart of defaming his good name. The suit is pending in circuit court. Libel experts say Hemmendinger may have a strong case.

Here are two of Hart's defenses:

1. "I haven't made a statement. I asked a question."

Jurors may see through that, said Dale Herbeck, who teaches communication law at Boston College. "This is kind of like asking, 'When did you stop beating your wife?' "

2. He didn't personally send the e-mails - his corporation did.

Nonsense, said Clark Furlow, who teaches corporation law at Stetson University College of Law.

"If I'm driving a car and I run you down in the street, I'm liable. The fact that I'm driving for a company doesn't change anything."

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Investigated by yngathrrt @ 12:15 AM
Link To The Evidence| 0 Notes
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