Monthly Archives: December 2012
As we are about to enter 2013, I would like to wish you all a happy, safe and prosperous New Year and would like to share with you the 2013 milestones planned for Future Coops Online.
With 2013 just hours away, now is the perfect time to sit down with your children and have a family round table and review their social media activity and open communication channels to make sure that all their activity is safe and most importantly enjoyable for them.
Awareness is the key to online safety and by being aware of all the possible dangers out there in ‘cyber space’ places you in a good place to sit down and openly discuss the dangers that may lurk in the world of ‘cyber space’. These dangers are more than just physical threats, they can even be psychological threats and threats from unscrupulous spammers who flood our networks with pornographic links and the like that place material that if sold at our newsstands to minors would be deemed illegal.
Having a thirteen year old daughter who is an active social media ‘early adopter’ I am all too aware of how easy it is now for children to be exposed to these dangers and illicit images and as a parent it is paramount that open communication is maintained to make sure her safety online.
Australia‘s leading and largest telecommunications provider Telstra have an excellent ‘Teenagers & Young Adults’ internet safety page located at http://www.telstra.com.au/abouttelstra/advice/internet/teenagers-young-adults/ that reinforces what most of us have already shared with our children but it is always good to refer back to regularly to make sure that no one in the family has become complacent. The following is a summary of Telstra’s Internet Safety advice:
- Be careful about talking to people you meet online. Not everyone is who they say they are.
- Don’t post, send or share anything you wouldn’t want your parents, teachers, future employers or someone who may be making unwanted advances towards you to see.
- Remember what you post online stays online for a long time – so think before you click!
- Keep your private information private – do not give out personal details online like your birthday or address, even on social networking sites like Facebook.
- Your username and password should belong to you, and only you.
- Remember to change your passwords regularly. Passwords should be completely random and unique, but still memorable. Try using numbers and letters.
- Don’t leave a computer whilst your account is still logged in – anyone could start using it.
- If you wouldn’t say something to someone offline then don’t say it online.
- Monitor your online and mobile usage. Not all content you view online is free to browse. If you’re with BigPond, look out for green dot content as it doesn’t count towards your download limit. Look at your usage meter regularly or think about getting a pre-paid account.
- If you feel like you are being bullied talk to someone you trust – don’t deal with it on your own. Your parents, teacher or even the Kids Helpline can help you. You can call Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800 – it’s Australia’s only free, private and confidential, telephone and online counselling service specifically for people aged between five and 25.
Friends Fans Likes Followers & The Dangers
Across all social media networks a common perception is the more ‘friends, fans, likes and followers’ one has the more popular they are individually or if the social media page is for a business they appear to have an extended reach in society. However, it is here that the dangers can hide beneath the façade of ‘friend, fan or follower’.
How many of you would meet a person in reality and instantly call them a friend? Yet online people tend to ‘friend’ at a drop of a hat with little or no due diligence performed with regards to checking out who they are actually ‘friending’. Yet time and time again cyber safety warnings constantly remind us all to on friend those we really know.
This area would have to be one of the toughest to reinforce with your children and it is here that your New Years resolution with your children should consider consisting of a regular informal chat over dinner, breakfast or any other time where you actually sit down with your children and discuss what is happening in the world of Facebook and the like. Incorporate social media activity where they openly discuss with you their ‘new friends’ and I would suggest having an informal policy with them that they quarantine all new ‘friend’ requests until you all sit down for your regular family discussion and really identify how well they really know this person or persons.
How you approach this area is most important and I honestly believe if you sit down and talk generically about ‘new friend’ requests regularly without making them feel like they have to tell you all the details of how the request may have come about it is a good way for them to feel like they can open up and discuss the key events surrounding the new friend. At this point you can reinforce how it is ok not to ‘friend’ everyone initially and to just wait until they feel really comfortable with ‘friending them if it is an appropriate person in their network.
Twitter is an excellent business marketing tool and its use with teenagers is increasing and so are the dangers of ‘followers’ either gaining access to your childs personal ‘tweets’ or ‘spamming’ them with links to illicit sites that promote pornographic images and the like.
Once again open communication is the key where you highlight to your children that the amount of ‘friends, followers or fans’ is not a social indicator as to how popular they are. All Twitter accounts for children should be set as ‘private’ and all follow requests should be vetted carefully. Advise your children that the latest trend in social media and Twitter is the ‘Social Imposter’ who impersonate celebrities and the like and if they want to allow a ‘celebrity to ‘follow’ them it is best to look for the Twitter ‘verification’ tick next to their name. Again, it may pay to let them know it is most likely the marketing machine behind the celebrity that is ‘following’ them and not the real teenage heart-throb.
Instagram is virtually ‘Twitter’ with pictures and all your children’s accounts should be set to ‘Private’ and similar ‘follower’ vetting that is applied to Twitter should apply to Instagram following requests. Spam posts are on the increase in Instagram and whilst they are trying to implement safeguards to protect the user experience, your children’s accounts are still vulnerable to unscrupulous persons trying to have your children view their sites.
Encourage your child to share all friend, fan and follower requests with you and if not all at least the ones they feel are a little dubious. Sit down with them regularly and reinforce the importance of online privacy and security and how you really appreciate that they are sharing with you their online activity and that you trust them and value the way in which you all can sit down and discuss the online environment.
Social media is here to stay with constant instantaneous connectivity consuming our teenagers at some would say are alarming levels. As parents we all need to keep abreast of the current trends to ensure we are all aware of any dangers that may lurk behind each social media platform.
Cyber Guardians Online constantly monitors the trends in social media and any threats will be shared with our ‘followers’. Feel free to share this blog post with friends or family if you feel it was helpful and should you subscribe to our blog you will be updated with current trends and threats across all social media platforms.
As reported in The Age newspaper by Jessica Guynn on 24 December 2012, a new IPhone messaging App allows users to ‘Poke’ their friends and is known as ‘Facebook Poke’ which sends texts, photos and videos to friends that self destruct within 10 seconds.
Allegedly the Facebook Poke App works similar to the increasingly popular Snapchat which according to the article also allows such messages to be transmitted and have its settings set for messages to ‘self destruct’ in a matter of seconds.
The ‘Poke’ App allows the user to set when a message should ‘expire’ whether it be one, three, five or ten seconds.
It is here that communication with your children is paramount and that they should be made aware of the ramifications of ‘sexting‘ both now and how it can affect their reputations in the future and how it is deemed illegal if they are images of persons under the age of 18.
The real concern is how you build that open communication channel up in that your child may appreciate it is illegal but feel that they cannot approach you if they receive an unsolicited image from someone. It is here you need to consider giving them a lesson on how to best retain such evidence so that you can decide on the proper action.
As the message will most likely ‘self destruct’ it is imperative that the image is captured immediately with a screen shot taken by the recipient and shown to you directly. (Instruct them not to on forward the message to friends or even yourself as this can be deemed as an offence if the image is of a person under the age of 18 years of age.
Once your child has captured the image it is strongly recommended that you contact your local law enforcement agency and discuss with them what action can be taken.
If your local law enforcement agency does not appear interested in the incident, feel free to contact us here at Cyber Guardians Online and we can discuss what avenues may be available for you to pursue to ensure that the person sending inappropriate images or messages is dealt with in your jurisdiction. (Sometimes your initial contact with a local law enforcement official is hampered by their lack of understanding of the issues relating to ‘sexting’ and cyber bullying.’)
Once again this really reinforces on how important open and frequent communication takes place with regards to social media activity and how they are very selective on who they ‘friend’ in social media.
Several recent tragic events both here in Australia and in the United States have been exasperated by persons creating fake social media sites and posting comments that are about criminal matters before the courts. In Australia these comments can be deemed ‘sub judas’ (under judicial consideration) and may constitute interference with due process leading to contempt of court proceedings. The United States do not have such tight restrictions on comments sub judas due to the First Amendment and the right to free speech, however, cases have been overturned where the defendant was convicted in an atmosphere of a media circus.
As the police either charge an offender or identify a suspect with regards to a major crime and if that crime has been featured in the media, persons appear to create Facebook and twitter accounts at an alarming rate in the name of the suspect almost immediately after the crime has occurred and post comments that are either in what appear to be a sarcastic positive light towards the person charged or extremely disturbing comments and opinions that on occasion contain graphic images.
In addition to the aforementioned abhorrent behaviour some people who are appear to be deeply psychologically disturbed create phenomenally disturbing Facebook and Twitter accounts and post comments and images that can have an impact not only the court proceedings but also on the metal well being of persons who read such posts. Additionally, these comments may also be deemed to fall under one of the categories of cyber bullying, stalking, harassment, intimidation and or vilification creating anxiety and psychological trauma to victims, their friends, relatives and the community in general.
A review of social media sites over the last six months especially after crimes that have featured heavily in the media has revealed the following.
- A fake Facebook page depicting to be the brother of an alleged murderer and posting comments how the victim deserved to be raped and murdered.
- Hundreds of comments on the actual alleged murderers Facebook page that due to its virility in cyberspace such actions could lead to the person not being able to have a ‘fair trial’ in the relevant jurisdiction.
- A fake Twitter account depicting to be of the father of a victim with comments about the victim.
- A fake twitter account of a shooting victim showing images of the victim with bullet wounds and making several comments as to how ‘good a shot’ the perpetrator was.
- Hundreds of detrimental comments on Facebook pages of persons recently deceased in car accidents where the deceased person may have been at fault in the accident and death or serious injuries have resulted to other persons.
- Threats of violence and intimidation posted on the Facebook pages of family members of persons suspected of committing a crime.
The speed in which these fake social media accounts are created and the manner in which they generate vulgar comments is of particular concern in that anyone anywhere can create a Facebook or twitter account in a matter of seconds as all that is required is a computer/smart phone or tablet and an internet connection.
The ease and proliferation in creating a social networking site which are used to connect people either publicly or privately via private messages and chat forums increases the risk of ‘fake’ social networking that ultimately is leading to an increase in cyber stalking and bullying related offences.
Whilst no identification verification is required to open a social networking site, it appears no protection is afforded society from persons who are intent on causing distress to recipients of their communication.
Once a person has created the fake account they can commence their antisocial behaviour that may constitute bullying, harassment, stalking and or intimidation and it is here it is important to generically define some of these terms.
Overseas Outsourcing For Fake Account
Information suggests persons are using overseas outsourcing sites like O-Desk to create false accounts offshore in places like India, Bangladesh and several Eastern Bloc countries resulting in virtually untraceable social media account. Some contractors in O-Desk work for 25 cents per hour therefore creating a low cost alternative for a person who is intent on creating hundreds of fake social media accounts. This activity also allows for ‘Imposter’ accounts to be created. (A separate blog will be posted regarding imposter accounts)
Analysis of some online behaviour can be classed as online harassment that includes cyber stalking and cyber bullying that has been described by Stone (1999) to consist of “communications which are often constant, filled with disturbing and inappropriate content, and do not cease even after the victim asks for the behaviors to stop”. Cyber bullying is described as the act of threatening and harassing an individual via messages including blog posts, status updates and chat forums in social networking sites aimed at hurting and humiliating an individual.
As identified by Alba (2012) Wylie (2007) writes that examples of tactics used by bullies include sending a continuous amount of harmful messages or creating humiliating online content via social networking sites as well as posting fake ads to draw the attention of victims. Cyber stalking refers to “the malicious and repeated following and harassing of another person that threatens his or her safety” (Meloy & Gothard, 1995, p.258). Cyber stalking can be performed in various ways including threatening, intimidating and impersonating profiles (Sreedevi, 2012). As described by Neo (2011) cyber stalking may also include actions like “false accusations, monitoring, making threats, identity theft, damage to data or equipment, soliciting minors for sex, or gathering information to harass”.
A person can create with relative ease a fake profile on social networking sites that can include photos, descriptions, multimedia content and information regarding personal interests and location. Additionally, the person creating the fake profile may infiltrate a persons ‘friends’ network and appear to be ‘connected’ whereby others in the ‘friends’ circle may inadvertently link with the person behind the fake account.
Furthermore, Alba (2012)reported that Postmedia News (2012) wrote that victims who experience harassment at school or other environments, for example in the workplace, can now also experience harassment while in the privacy of their own home via social networking sites. Accessibility to social networking sites from not only the home but also via mobile communication means that victims can now be harassed at all hours of the day and the audience for cyber bullying and stalking has become much larger as opposed to traditional social environments.
Sreedevi (2012) points out that cyber criminals have the opportunity to remain anonymous online, making it more difficult for them to be traced and easier to target innocent people. Miller (2010) adds that as bullies or stalkers are not faced with victims who show real feelings online, harassment is easier for attackers making it worse and more hurtful for victims.
Day (2012) writes about a recent case of Tyler Clementi, an 18 year old American college student who committed suicide after his private life was exposed publicly. A video was created of him having sex with a male which was broadcast over the internet via social networking sites. His room mates were also involved in posting and exchanging harmful messages on twitter and failed to realise that these messages can be viewed by all, leading to serious consequences.
Global Instantaneous Reach
Alcindor (2012) explains that unlike exchanging messages on Facebook which can be restricted to a group, Twitter messages are broadcast publicly to a much larger audience. This is an example of how online harassment via social networks can cause real life consequences in real time.
Inability To Take Action
London based Bains Cohen LLP Solicitors (2011) have stated that victims often feel too frightened and powerless to report online harassment to the police and in any case the solicitors explain that often when incidents are reported, victims experience a lack of support as they find that police are either not interested, lack knowledge or the investigation involves a lengthy process. Not all police have sufficient knowledge to deal with online harassment.
On many occasions in Australia the state police will refer the complainant to the Australian Federal Police citing that it is a Commonwealth matter (Federal offence) as the relevant law that govern telecommunications services is a Commonwealth Act, being the Crimes Legislation Amendmnet (Telecommunications Offences and Other Measures) Act (No.2) 2004. However the state police can investigate telecommunications offences and are generally in a better position to do so on most occasions as they are quite frequently domestic related offences. However, with the globalization of digital communication the shift in offence patterns is now shifting towards more complex investigations and as highlighted below the range of offences now under the act is is quite broad and somewhat complex, but nevertheless encompassing in that the legislation captures previously mentioned anti-social. behaviour.
Division 474—Telecommunications offences
Subdivision A—Dishonesty with respect to carriage services
- 474.1 Dishonesty
- 474.2 General dishonesty with respect to a carriage service provider
Subdivision B—Interference with telecommunications
- 474.3 Person acting for a carrier or carriage service provider
- 474.4 Interception devices
- 474.5 Wrongful delivery of communications
- 474.6 Interference with facilities
- 474.7 Modification etc. of a telecommunications device identifier
- 474.8 Possession or control of data or a device with intent to modify a telecommunications device identifier
- 474.9 Producing, supplying or obtaining data or a device with intent to modify a telecommunications device identifier
- 474.10 Copying subscription-specific secure data
- 474.11 Possession or control of data or a device with intent to copy an account identifier
- 474.12 Producing, supplying or obtaining data or a device with intent to copy an account identifier
Subdivision C—Offences related to use of telecommunications
- 474.13 Use of a carriage service
- 474.14 Using a telecommunications network with intention to commit a serious offence
- 474.15 Using a carriage service to make a threat
- 474.16 Using a carriage service for a hoax threat
- 474.17 Using a carriage service to menace, harass or cause offence
- 474.18 Improper use of emergency call service
- 474.19 Using a carriage service for child pornography material
- 474.20 Possessing, controlling, producing, supplying or obtaining child pornography material for use through a carriage service
- 474.21 Defences in respect of child pornography material
- 474.22 Using a carriage service for child abuse material
- 474.23 Possessing, controlling, producing, supplying or obtaining child abuse material for use through a carriage service
- 474.24 Defences in respect of child abuse material
- 474.25 Obligations of Internet service providers and Internet content hosts
- 474.26 Using a carriage service to procure persons under 16 years of age
- 474.27 Using a carriage service to “groom” persons under 16 years of age
- 474.28 Provisions relating to offences against sections 474.26 and 474.27
- 474.29 Defences to offences against section 474.26 or 474.27
Furthermore, resolving harassment cases can be very complicated as it is not always easy to provide sufficient evidence especially when attackers are anonymous and located in other towns or countries. Bains Cohen LLP Solicitors (2011) identified a recent case which involved an internet savvy person who created intimidating blogs and websites against a victim who was jailed after being convicted of online harassment however it took police at least 18 months to track down the attacker, and even then, the harmful comments remained online as it was still difficult for the police to have the content removed. As a matter of fact, due to the enormous publicity related to the court case, the blogs and websites received even more attention causing even more distress to the victim. Ogilvie (2000) points out that in the case of attackers and victims being located in different countries or cities, it becomes difficult to determine which jurisdiction to apply to a case making justice and the resolution of problems very complicated.
Identifying the Offender
Identification is the key issue in that most people who have had a telecommunications service connected as a post pay service are familiar with having to produce some for of identification to obtain the service as credit is involved. Whilst this has been a somewhat reliable source of information for law enforcement in the past, it was not without its flaws. Some of the issues facing telecommunication companies and law enforcement are:
- False identification being produced.
- Having another person apply for the service (sometimes with an unknown person for a cash fee)
- Corruption within the sales department of the telecommunication service whereby identification is not verified as per company guidelines.
- Store clerk error in recording identification details.
All of the above lead to telecommunication services being provided to persons where identity is not adequately recorded if recorded at all.
Information also suggests that the ‘black market’ for untracebale SIM cards is ‘rife’ in Australia and the United States and these SIM cards are being connected onto networks at an alarming rate and could be facilitating criminal activity across all levels from petty street crimes and harassment to organized crime rackets involving drug importations and distribution, murder andkidnapping.
A major issue with law enforcement is how mobile telecommunications devices use a dynamic Internet Protocol (IP) as opposed to a static IP. (Zytrax 2012) As the names imply Static IP addresses are the same every time you connect with Dynamic IP addresses having the ability to change each time a person connects to the Internet. Dynamic IP addresses are the normal customer access method used by most ISPs or Service Providers. When using dynamic IP addresses, even if you are permanently connected (always-on) some ISPs/Service Providers change dynamic IP addresses every 24 hours, others change less frequently (monthly or even longer in certain cases).
Additionally, some persons may use internet cafes and register emails at Yahoo and the like from there where they then conduct the online harassment, whilst some persons scour the suburbs for ‘open’ wireless networks to gain access to ‘wifi’ connections from outside the premises. Such activity leads investigators to the usually ‘Static IP’ address and therefore allowing the person total anomoninity.
Like with all policing, success comes down to solid investigative work and with all of the aforementioned issues identified the proliferation of social media accounts and the ease they can be created both here and offshore combined with law enforcement agencies having to do more with less it is no wonder cyber bullying, harassment and the like is on the increase. Whilst law enforcement agencies have proactively created ‘computer crime units’ and national ‘High Tech Crime’ sections, front line police need better training and advice with regards to the ever changing world of ‘computer’ related crime.
Connectivity is a way of life now for all persons almost from the age of 4 years of age if not younger and an important part of our daily lives and with such reliance comes ‘familiarity’ and instances where our most vulnerable let their guard down and it is here we need to protect them with investigating and prosecuting persons who use the internet for illicit means.
Maybe, time has come for some civil action to be taken against perpetrators of internet based crime and start having monetary penalties applied.
Alba, Anna. (2012). Social Networks: the rise of online harrassment. Retreived from http://networkconference.netstudies.org/2012/socialnetworksonlineharassment/
Alcindor, Y. (2012, March 19). Lesson of Rutgerscase: Online actions carry consequences. USA Today. Retrieved from
Bains Cohen LLP Solicitors. (2011). Internet Law Experts: Online harassment, online intimidation and the criminal justice system. Shall I Report Online Harassment To The Police? Retrieved from
Day, E. (2012, March 11). The hurt caused by private lives being made public. The Observer. Retrieved from
Meloy, J. & Gothard, S. (1995). A Demographic and Clinical Comparison of Obsessional Followers and Offenders with Mental Disorders, American Journal of Psychiatry, 152, 258–63.
Miller, D. (2010, March 10). The Darker Side of Facebook: Cyber-Bullying. Australian Women Online. Retrieved from
Neo. (2011, January 3). How to Handle Online Harassment & Cyber Stalking. Retrieved from
Ogilvie, E. (2000). Cyberstalking. Australian Institute of Technology. Retrieved from
Postmedia News. (2012, March 24). Online bullying is now everyone’s problem. Retrieved from
Sreedevi, K. (2012, March 25). Beware! E-mafia is at work on social media. DECCAN Chronicle. Retrieved from
Stone, D. M. (1999). Online Harassment. Urbana, IL: University Laboratory High School. Retrieved from
Wylie, M. (2007). Online Family Safety – Eight ways to handle cyber-bullies. Retrieved from
Zytrax (2012). Retrieved from http://www.zytrax.com/isp/faqs/static.htm
As reported in Saturdays ‘The Age‘ on December 15 by Clay Lucas it appears that an increasing number of workplaces are banning staff from accessing social media at work. “Social media facing bans in workplace agreements.”
Some of these agreements specifically warn staff that any comments on social media that refer to their employment or personal life could result in disciplinary action that includes termination.
Additionally some agreements have banned social media activity during working hours unless done at the direction of a manager.
One area for concern for workers is the increasing amount of workplace bullying taking place via social media and how as employers they have a duty of care to protect their employees. The amount of employees making ‘sexual, racial, abusive, threatening and or intimidating comments is on the increase.
Upon reviewing the article by Clay Lucas it appears the majority of people that post such remarks who believe the remarks made are ‘semi’ private amongst their ‘freinds’ do not appreciate how the remarks can be shared by their ‘friends’ and instaneoulsy go viral not only in the workplace but globally.
Social media is no place for raising workplace grievances, yet people are feeling that this is an appropriate forum.
Overall employers must appreciate that not only is social media here to stay it is growing exponentially and with this growth workplace use by employees will increase whether it be used openly or in a clandestine manner with fake social media identities.
Open use of social media if used in an appropriate manner can be a benefit to an employer as it not only increases the awareness of the employees company which may in turn lead to increased sales but appropriate posts about the company or ‘positive’ work experiences can put the employer on a ‘pedestal’ amongst the employees social media ‘friends’ and or ‘followers’.
It is here that the employer must harness the employee as an overall ambassador of the company and embrace social media and ensure that the company has social media training available to all employees on a regular basis. Social media is evolving daily and training staff in the appropriate use must also be reviewed constantly and regularly updated and rolled out. Currency is the key to good social media training.
Social media training is perfect for hybrid delivery where it can be delivered partly in the classroom at induction and then regularly updated on-line with interactive online modules.
Banning social media in the workplace will only force its use underground and be far more harmful to the company and employees overall.