If you are reading this book or thinking about acquiring it, you have taken an important step toward increasing your awareness of the ways in which the Internet may be abused. J. A. Hitchcock has prepared a second edition of her popular book, Net Crimes and Misdemeanors, reflecting new ways in which you may encounter the dark side of global networking. Her personal experiences lend credibility to the text and her concrete examples help readers formulate defenses to avoid becoming victims.
The Internet has much to offer that is positive and constructive. It started as an academic research exercise and the community that used it, 20 years ago, was largely homogeneous in its interests. As the Internet became better known and as the World Wide Web opened up the Internet to consumer use 10 years ago, the user population began to resemble the general population. Today, users cover the same gamut as drivers on the highway, and then some, considering there are many users who are not yet old enough to drive, but are old enough to cause online trouble.
This book is intended to provide readers with insights into some of the ways in which predators and troublemakers may abuse the Internet, causing direct harm or at least psychological damage on other unsuspecting users. A new vocabulary has evolved as some of these abuses have come to light. “Cyberstalking” and “phishing” are examples. Indeed, many of the abuses we see are in principle no different than those carried out with older technology (e.g., telephone, postal service). All of these media are global in scope. All can potentially be used anonymously. But the Internet has the distinguishing feature of having millions of computers connected to it. When a computer is invaded by software that turns it into a “cyberzombie” (another neologism!), it can be used as a weapon in the same way that a joy rider in a car might abuse control over the vehicle.