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How Safe are Those “Off-line” Officers?

November 4th, 2011

I have posted about online officer safety previously.  I know many officers, particularly those uncomfortable with the Internet, have taken the approach of avoiding cyberspace like the plague, particularly social networking sites. After all, you can’t be a victim in cyberspace if you don’t venture there right? But I think that might be a variation of the ostrich head in the sand approach…surely the lion will not eat me if he can’t see my head. Some recent events have got me thinking that avoidance might not be the best strategy and here’s why.

Having an online presence is “staking claim” to one’s digital identity. If one doesn’t establish one they run the real risk that someone will go online and do it for them. It really isn’t all that hard for someone to create a fake social networking site. Recently researchers from the University of British Columbia (BC) found that Facebook’s fake account detection mechanisms can be defeated 80 percent of the time with the help of automated tools.  

Now the BC researchers were looking at tools that hackers might use to create hundreds of bogus accounts to spam and/or steal information from hundreds or thousands of legitimate users. However, if one is going to create a single false account the detection rate is probably much lower. Individuals have been able to successfully create these individual accounts and basically cyberharrass their victims. That is exactly what one New Jersey women is accused of doing when she alleged created a false Facebook account in her ex-boyfriend’s name and peppered it with “unpleasantries.” 

Here is what might happen with an officer who doesn’t have any cyber-presence. An offender or their associate creates one in the officer’s name. They might even obtain a picture from somewhere and post it to the profile. Sprinkle with the name of the officer’s current employer, their interests, (how many officers have pictures of themselves fishing or smoking cigars or with their favorite sports team memorabilia on display) and mix in the college they attended (yep, those college diplomas are proudly displayed in many offices) and you have a profile that might easily pass as legitimate. 

Now the offender might have some fun with it and use it to post inappropriate comments or pictures. But lets take it a step further. They might use it to communicate with the officer’s other offenders or even their co-workers. Gee all this might take some explaining to a supervisor. I am sure it would get sorted out but what a hassle in the meantime. But lets say they don’t do that with it. Lets say they just leave it out there, for the officer’s real friends and family to connect with. Sure some officers refuse to venture into cyberspace but what about their families and friends? Are they so unwilling to get online? Social networking sites are designed to search out new connections for their users. How long before the offender with the bogus officer profile gets connected to the officer’s family and friends? Once connected they can collect information about who the officer’s close family and friends are and where they can be located. What would an offender do with that information? We are dealing in a world where identity theft is prolific. There are also cases of cyber-impersonating occurring in the news with some regularity. It is not a matter of if but when an officer gets impersonated in cyberspace.

The point to all this is officers must take control of their Internet presence. They can’t just leave it to chance or ignore it. If an officer creates a profile and connects with their friends/family they have established a barrier of sorts to an offender creating a fake profile to obtain information from their contacts. After all a friend or family member will likely question why one of their contacts has two profiles and start asking questions. Additionally, officers need to communicate with family and friends and let them know whether they have an account and to notify them immediately if a new one appears in their name. Additionally, officers should periodically complete Google, Bing, and other online searches to see if someone is trying to impersonate them online.

Is all this going to prevent an offender from cyber-impersonating their officer? Maybe. They might see the officer’s real profile and conclude it is not a good idea. But if they do, at least the officer will hopefully catch the problem before an offender convinces family and friends to unwittingly provide personal information to them. It is a brave new world out there isn’t it? Not a place for sticking one’s head in the sand. Be safe out there and where is that darn cigar at?

Art Internet Safety

Sex Offenders: 1 Supervision Officers: 0

August 4th, 2011

Recently a parole officer contacted me for guidance on a sex offender he is supervising. The sex offender was prohibited from being on any social networking site (SNS) and he suspected he was accessing at least one. He had seized the computer and was asking for advice.  At that point I asked the officer if he had checked any SNS to see if the offender was online.

You guessed it. It appears the sex offender is not the only one prohibited from accessing a SNS. The supervision officer was prohibited by his agency’s policy and system from accessing any SNS from his work computer. In fact, his agency’s computer usage policy was so restrictive he couldn’t even download a copy of Field Search, a program initially developed by National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center (NLECTC) to assist probation and parole officers in sex offender management.

Unfortunately I can’t say this a new problem. I have heard it expressed countless times by other officers from other agencies all over the country. We can’t access SNS or other Internet areas because our system/policy prohibits it. There is a fear that officers will start updating their SNS or worse visiting pornography and not do their work. I understand the concern that employees may waste time online. After all monitoring software companies stress the amount of hours wasted by employees surfing the net on the clock.

The problem is supervision officers need to know what offenders are doing online. It is part of the job in the 21st Century.  Sex offenders are online and on SNS. Gang members are also using SNS to communicate with one another. This blog has noted how offenders are using Twitter to discuss their officers and supervision. Can anyone imagine an agency prohibiting its officers from going in the field because of fear they might goof-off or do something in appropriate?

It is funny in some respects if we consider that some correction agencies are looking to expand inmate access to e-mail and possibly the Internet. But when it comes to the parole officer getting access…nope we can’t trust you to do your job if you have online access. So we can trust inmates but not officers? Wow what a thought!

The second reasoning for limiting access is an IT based argument. Specifically, we can’t allow officers to go anywhere they want because they are liable to download a virus or worm. They also don’t want employees making changes to the system by installing software. That is probably why the officer I noted above couldn’t download Field Search. I get there are problems with downloading or going to locations without proper precautions. There is stuff out there will install itself even if you don’t click on something and then your machine is infected.

But lets take this argument into the brick and mortar world a bit. Would we prohibit officers from driving agency vehicles into some of the high crime areas out there to do their supervision activities? I mean the agency car might get stolen or damaged. And we can’t have officers speeding in those cars because they might get in an accident, so lets put controls so they can’t go faster than 45 mph without approval. In some correctional agencies those kinds of controls and prohibitions are being put on computers and the Internet. They are more concerned about protecting the agency property than performing the agency mission, which is protecting the community.

Our jobs are inherently risky. Officers take a chance every time they put on a gun and a vest and go out in the field to supervise offenders. That is our job. We don’t ignore risk but we don’t run from it. The same approach must go for computers and the Internet. Allow officers to do their jobs when it involves the Internet or computers. Protect the system but don’t lock it down so tight that it is useless. By all means keep anti-virus and firewalls working and make sure updates are made when needed. But make appropriate exceptions for officers to do their jobs. If needed isolate those machines from the rest of the agency system so they can be used to perform online supervision activities.

Officers and mangers also need educated about what the risks are and what to avoid. Officers and managements need to talk with IT staff about what is needed. Risk must be managed so that officers can still do their job. ”No way” has got to be replaced with how can we minimize the computer/system risk and protect the community. After all can we really put more value on a desk top computer or even a whole network (both of which can be restored or replaced) over community protection? Do we really want to protect one lap top with WiFi Internet access over the life of one child abducted and killed by a supervised sex offender they met online? Lets put the public over the computers we use. Otherwise the offenders will win. By the way, that sex offender I mentioned is online, while his officer’s agency hasn’t even started the game. Gee I hope those agencies aren’t blocking officers access to the Three C’s! Time for a cigar on that thought.

Art Internet Safety, Supervision

The Perfect Storm: Cyberspace Criminality

May 21st, 2011

Recently Match.com made headlines in a bad way. It became the subject of a lawsuit for not properly screening sex offenders from its dating service. You guessed it. One sex offender hooked up online with a female and met and raped her in the real world. Match.com has promised to ratchet up its screening protocols. This past week Connecticut moved legislation forward that would require Internet dating sites which charge fees to provide customers safety tips and advice  to make both online and offline dating safer. If enacted Connecticut will join New York and New Jersey who have passed similar legislation.

Within the last week Craigslist has again made the news as a virtual hunting grounds for offenders. Fours suspects (two reportedly gang members) posed as sellers on Craigslist and robbed an 18-year old and his girlfriend and killed the man when he attempted to follow them.  We also have an apparent serial killer dubbed the “Craigslist Ripper“, using the service to find victims and dumping the bodies in a secluded section of Long Island beach over the past several months. The blog has discussed previously the issues regarding sex offenders on social networking sites, notablly Facebook. However, make no mistake not all the victimization occurring online is due to sex offenders. An article in the Wall Street Journal  provided information on a 45 year old senior manager who was scammed out of $5,000 by a “female” he meet on eHarmony.

Why are these acts occurring online in apparent increasing frequency? Well part of it may be the media just highlighting these serious online crimes, which makes it seem like there is more of them. However, the truth is more and more of the public is turning to the Internet for social interaction. The more interaction online the more victims come into contact with motivated offenders. This is exactly what I believe Lawrence Cohen and Marcus Felson were suggesting with their Routine Activities Theory. Specifically, a crime occurs when the following three factors converge in time and space: 1) A motivated offender; 2) A suitable target; and 3) The absence of a capable guardian. I think the argument can be made that there really is an “absence of a capable guardian” online, so in a real sense we are seeing a perfect storm of criminality in cyberspace.

We also can’t ignore that the computer and the Internet are excellent tools for criminal behavior. The Internet provides offenders with a sense of anonymity. They can communicate with whomever they want with little fear that someone will discover or identify them. Additionally, they can tailor their appearance to whatever is needed to get at their victim. They can be rich, educated, someone from the opposite sex, single, more attractive, less overweight, or similar in age to the victim, etc. These dating sites also are in many respects a sexual predators ’ preference catalog. Most group individuals by age, weight, hair and eye color, height, location, etc. I have even seen some sites provide shoe sizes. What more would a crazed sexual predator want?

Additionally, they can literally groom multiple victims not only over an extended period of time but simultaneously. Such activity would prove harder and riskier to accomplish in the real world. Finally, particularly, with the scams and frauds, offenders oftentimes are not even in the same jurisdiction or country of the victim. This makes investigation and prosecution that much harder and dare I say the offenders know it.

So what can be done about this? Well for starters we need more Internet safety presentations, starting at a young age and going all the way up to the nursing homes. These presentations have to stress that just because someone types it on a screen or shows you a picture doesn’t really make is so. Additionally, such presentations should stress the appropriate personal details to share and under what circumstances.

The private sector in cyberspace has also got to step up to plate. In the real world no business would last long that did not provide proper lighting in the customer parking lots, routine mall security, etc. The private sector, particularly those involved in social/dating sites, have got to come up with techniques for providing those same rudimentary security measures that we all expect in the real world. If they refuse to do so their sites may become as popular as a store with no night lighting located in a high crime area.

Finally, law enforcement has got to be more involved in the online community and not just retroactively but proactively. This is going to be hard with the current budgetary climate. But if it doesn’t happen the Old West will seem like a very mild metaphor for describing the lawlessness of 21st Century cyberspace. 

For community corrections officers we must be aware what our offenders are doing online, particularly if their crimes were predatory in nature. I can see no earthly reason why a supervised sex offender should be given free rein to frequent whatever social networking he or she chooses. Even the sites which only allow adults can be a problem for sex offenders who victimize children. Most ask if the person has children. How hard would it be for a pedophile to locate a single lonely mother with minor children to victimize? Offenders who are con artists also pose a risk in this environment where victims are so trusting. Ask questions about what your offenders are doing online before you get that call from the police department about them.

 Many of these issues I am sure are going to be discussed at HTCIA’s 2011 Annual Training Conference and Expo. The HTCIA is celebrating 25 years as a participant and leader in the High Technology world this year. Tell Wojo, Jimmie, Duncan, and Tom I sent you. Now where is that cigar I had? Be safe out there.

Art Internet Safety, Supervision

Digital Sticks and Stones

March 26th, 2011

Child Abuse Prevention Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month are in April. Additionally, April 10-16, 2011 is National Crime Victims Rights Week. What do these events have to do with cyberspace? I mean, cyberspace isn’t real right? No one gets harmed by 1′s and 0′s. Sure there are hackers and virus writers that harm or steal data but that has nothing to do with this month’s “real victims.” Oh contraire mon amie! Let me show you how what happens in cyberspace can have real world consequences.

Child Porn

One of the things that really fries my grits is the comment by some that child porn is just “dirty pictures” and the offenders who posses digital images are somehow removed from the victimization process because they didn’t produce the images. I somethings also hear the comment that these images mainly involve 16-17 year olds or are almost 18 years old, and it is “borderline illegal.” Moose hockey!

According to to National Center for Missing and Exploited Children the content of these illegal images “varies from exposure of genitalia to graphic sexual abuse, such as penetration by objects, anal penetration, and bestiality.” Additionally, of the “child pornography victims identified by law enforcement, 42% appear to be pubescent, 52% appear to be prepubescent, and 6% appear to be infants or toddlers.”

Beyond the creation trauma, what kind of harm are we talking about with these images? Digital images don’t degrade over time. Electronic media is the closest thing mankind has come to creating something that is permanent. These images can be traded hundreds and thousands of times and the look of fear, shock, and trauma on the victim’s face is just as fresh as the day it was taken. The images, transmitted all over the world, can’t just be deleted or recalled. They are viewed by all manner of sex offender, from the dabbler (curious offender) to the hard core preferential offender. They are even used by some offenders to entice new children. The children in these pictures are repeatedly victimized a little bit more each time these images are viewed, traded, and distributed. The phrase “dirty pictures”, sometimes used by offenders, attorney, and even judges, to describe these images minimizes the harm done to these children. It is like equating a tsunami with the splash one creates in a mud puddle.

Some federal courts are wrestling with putting a dollar figure for restitution orders in convictions involving child pornography possession. If these restitution orders stand,  maybe, just maybe, potential offenders will realize that possessing images of a children being brutalized can have a negative financial impact on them. It is a small measure of comfort to the victims in these images.

Internet Harassment

Approximately 3.4 million people are stalked annually and 1 in 4 victims reported the offense included a cyberstalking act. (Baum, Catalano, and Rand, 2009) Additionally, law enforcement estimates that electronic communications are a factor in 20% to 40% of all stalking cases. So the lines between on-line and off-line stalking frequently overlap. The effects of cyberstalking and more recently cyberbullying are starting to be viewed as more than just a cyberspace event. According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, cyberstalking victims … “often psychological trauma, as well as physical and emotional reactions as a result of their victimization. Some of these effects may include: changes in sleeping and eating patterns; nightmares; hypervigilance; anxiety; helplessness; fear for safety; shock and disbelief.”

Hinduja and Patchin found … “that experience with traditional bullying and cyberbullying is associated with an increase in suicidal ideation among our sample, and that both seem to be related to the outcome measure in similar ways.” They further note that the data does not support a cause and effect type relation, but that these experiences with bullying and cyberbullying may tend … “to exacerbate instability and hopelessness in the minds of adolescents already struggling with stressful life circumstances.”

Conclusion

I hope that during the upcoming month we realize that a crime, regardless of whether it occurs online or off-line, profoundly and negatively effects victims. We should not paint with broad minimization strokes simply because the crime occurred in the digital age. Those “1′s and 0′s” can sometimes be as harmful as “sticks and stones.”

References

1999 Report on Cyberstalking: A New Challenge for Law Enforcement and Industry, a Report from the Attorney General to the Vice President, August 1999

Baum, Katrina; Catalano, Shannan; and Rand, Michael, (2009). Stalking Victimization in the United States. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs.

Hinduja, Sameer and Patchin, Justin W. ‘Bullying, Cyberbullying, and Suicide’, Archives of Suicide Research, 14:3, 206 – 221

Lozano, Juan, “Legal experts: Ruling benefits child porn victims” Associated Press, March 25, 2011

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children,  Child Pornography Fact Sheet

The National Center for Victims of Crime, Cyberstalking

Art Internet Safety, Legal Updates, Supervision

Facebook® vs. LinkedIn®

February 11th, 2011

On December 7, 2010, I posted Keep it Secret…Keep it Safe: Good Advice for Corrections and Social Networking and thought I would share this recently unattended discovery about what corrections folks think is relevant to keep safe and what isn’t a problem to share.

I have a profile on a business and professional networking site, LinkedIn® (Please note this is not a plug for them and no I am not on their payroll). From time to time I try to see if there is anyone in corrections out there on the site, particularly located near me. Well I did a search for a specific term associated with corrections and rehabilitation and came up with about 164 entries in my area.  Problem is the vast majority of these entries are useless. They contain names like Probation Officer, Parole Officer, or an institution’s name.  No one is going to network with these profiles as you can’t tell who the hell they are. The same pattern is present throughout the nation on Linkedin®. You search for a parole officer you can get hundreds of profiles in other cities of no named profiles.  Well, I wondered what if I did the same search for Facebook®. You guessed it ….almost double the entries, with names, pictures of kids, interests, locations, friends, etc. 

Now to be fair Facebook® is the big dog in this comparison with about 500,000,000 users and growing to LinkedIn® with about 80,000,000. Stats  But LinkedIn® has basic information for professionally sharing with other professionals. You control who sees your profile.  Don’t get me wrong, you still could get in trouble on it. I am amazed at professionals who feel the need to tell folks in their network they are in route to a conference, put their DOB on it, or personal cell phone.  Some folks are not shy about telling the world they are looking for a new job, something I am sure their current employer would find curious. Sure their job history and current job is listed.  Additionally, folks you add to your network know your professional connections too. But there are no pictures or details about your kids or your family, unless you post them as your profile pic or put them in your resume information (BAD IDEA).  It is just a different type of networking where it would appear corrections is overly cautious about telling others in the field who they are.  Could someone search for you on LinkedIn®? Hell yes!  So they find out where you work or worked.  Unless you have a stalker that is following you from job to job, they know that already. I mean your offenders you supervise already know you are a probation or parole officer.

It could be corrections folks aren’ aware of LinkedIn® and its professional networking potential. It actually has a pretty good Group function that allows you to join specific discussion groups.  For instance, I have one for Cybercrime Supervision, where folks can post questions, discussions, etc. It could also be that all those Probation/Parole Officers Profiles with no names are a lame attempt by some offenders to get folks to connect with them (I doubt it). 

So corrections folks are perfectly willing to share on Facebook® very intimate details about themselves but on a site designed to help them in their jobs they become secret agents. What up with that?  Hide from fellow professionals but tell the world (and your offenders) your kids are having a ball game on Friday night. Curious ain’t it!

PS: Keep those cards and letters coming folks…. I mean post your questions at The Three C’s: Answers for the Correctional Professional on Cybercrime and don’t forget to check out 25th High Technology Crime Investigation Associations International Training Conference & Expo site. I am pretty darn certain my good friends Wojo and Jimmie are planning a great event…including training on social networking investigations, cell phone forensics investigations and other stuff folks involved in supervising cyber-offenders would find helpful. And always be safe out there, whether in be in cyberspace or in the real world!

Art Internet Safety

Corrections Responses for Juvenile Sexting

January 2nd, 2011

It was ten years ago last month that I raised the issue of computer delinquency in the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin  December 2000, article, “Juveniles and Computers: Should We Be Concerned?” The article discussed how juveniles were increasing being involved in all manner of high tech delinquency from hacking to check fraud and counterfeiting. Some juveniles were also getting involved in possession and distribution of child pornography. The article concluded with “Only by recognizing early on that computer delinquency is a serious matter that inflicts financial and ethical burdens on society can the criminal justice system hope to effectively handle these youths before they become master computer criminals.” Little did I realize what was on the horizon.

I really missed the mark. With the increased use of mobile devices, particularly by our youth, we now have minors involved in juvenile sexting.  How could I have not realized that juveniles would actually be creating their own child pornography with the future’s technology? What are the corrections implications for this activity? Should juvenile authorities be involved with these cases or is it just a phase our youth will go through?

In “Sexting: Risky Actions and Overreactions” (FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, July 2010) I discussed with Michael Sullivan that these cases poses a challenge for numerous groups to act responsibly with common sense and sound discretion.  The article provides a framework for deciding an appropriate investigative and/or legal response to these cases.  Before I delve into juvenile corrections considerations, let me be clear about one thing. These considerations only apply if we are dealing solely with juveniles and not adults. An adult involved in the situation changes the dynamics, particularly if they were the cause or catalyst for the juvenile’s involvement.

Prevention is really the key to these cases. Youth must be educated about Internet safety, computer usage ethics, and the repercussions of inappropriate online behavior. Digital images do not deteriorate over time and can be easily distributed worldwide. Offensive online behavior posted on a social networking site may seem “funny,” when one is 15-years old but may be extremely difficult to explain away when one is trying to get into college or even get hired. Active Internet safety/ethic presentations should be part of every school’s curriculum. Such presentations can help minimize or prevent future juvenile sexting occurrences as well as cyberbullying. They also can be used as a component in developing diversion programs for cases which do not warrant formal juvenile adjudication.

Once a juvenile case is presented for adjudication, officials need to evaluate several factors to ascertain an appropriate response to the underlining conduct. For instance, if we are talking about images, how did they come to be created? Did the victim take the images and forward them? Were they coerced or somehow forced to take the images or were they taken without their knowledge? What is the age difference between the victim and the person who created, received, and/or distributed them? It may be a mitigating factor where there is little or no disparity in age. However, if the offender is significantly older (e.g., a 15-year-old with pictures of an 8-year-old) there are serious treatment considerations present. Has the offending youth participated in similar misconduct in the past?

Likewise, did the offender forward the images or messages to get back at the victim? Did the initial illicit activity somehow transform into cyberbullying or Internet harassment? Was the act itself perpetrated by the juvenile offender meant to be a “prank’? For instance, a wayward male teenager taking a picture of his privates and posting them on a school’s computers. Evaluating these issues will help juvenile corrections recommend appropriate responses that do not go overboard but likewise do not underestimate a possible serious problem area.

Finally, juvenile community corrections officers also need to become familiar with how youth use computers and the Internet for delinquent behavior if they can hope to fashion realistic supervision strategies. It is kind of ironic that over ten years ago when I made my observations about computer delinquency some of today’s teenagers were only toddlers. In some ways, they have out distanced many in corrections with regards to technology. It is really time we as a professionals started to seriously look how technology and new opportunities for delinquent/criminal behavior are developing. If we don’t the next challenge may be far more serious than juvenile sexting.

References

Bowker, Art and Sullivan, Michael. “Sexting: Risky Actions and Overreactions” FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin (July 2010, Volume 79, No. 7) 27-31. Retrieved from http://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/law-enforcement-bulletin/july-2010/sexting

Bowker, Arthur L. “The Advent of the Computer Delinquent” FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin (December 2000, Volume 69, No. 12) : 7-11. Retrieved from http://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/law-enforcement-bulletin/2000-pdfs/dec00leb.pdf

Bowker, Arthur L. “Juveniles and Computers: Should We Be Concerned?” Federal Probation 63, No. 2 (December 1999): 40-43. Retrieved from http://www.uscourts.gov/viewer.aspx?doc=/uscourts/FederalCourts/PPS/Fedprob/1999decfp.pdf

Computer delinquency refers to any delinquent act or criminal behavior committed by a juvenile where a computer was the tool used in the offense, was the target of a delinquent act, or contained evidence of a delinquent act.

Juvenile sexting entails youths sending or posting sexually suggestive text messages and images, including nude or seminude photographs, via cellular telephones or over the Internet.

Art Internet Safety

Keep it Secret…Keep it Safe: Good Advice for Corrections and Social Networking

December 7th, 2010

For sometime it has been sound advice not to have family pictures displayed in one’s office or workstation. This was a safety precaution. After all one didn’t want an offender to know about your family or what they looked like just in case they decided to retaliate against them. Likewise, it was professionally not a good idea to discuss personal details or specifics of one’s life with their correctional clients. 

We know have social networking sites (SNS) such as Facebook®. In getting ready for this column I decided to do some informal checking to see what correctional professionals were doing on SNS. By searching for employers with corrections, prisons, probation, parole, etc. I came up with current and/former employee at state, federal and private sector correctional entities. I easily found hundreds, if not, thousands, of correctional employees from all levels and agencies, posting an unbelievable amount of personal data online for anyone to see. Correctional guards were posting their significant others/spouses names and ages of their children (with pictures), right on the profile. Of course all their friends were also listed as well. Some were allowing me to see what they were up to as well. 

In many ways this is much worse than having a portrait in your office. Those pictures didn’t have names, ages, schools, employers, their schedule, etc. on it. Additionally, it is tough to make a copy of a portrait but SNS information is there for anyone, and can be printed out and provided in hard copy format rather easily. 

So how big of deal is all this readily available information? Would your activities be of interest to offenders? What would any offender do with this information about the individuals who are charged with controlling them or supervising their actions?What about a prison gang? Would they be able to use this information to their advantage? Anything that might cause you problems with your employer? What if an offender had knowledge of that information? Would they be able to extort you to do something, even minor, with that information? I believe most of us know the answers to these questions. Clearly, knowledge is power. 

Now many of you are thinking, gee, I am really careful. I don’t list any one’s names. I might have my friend’s listed but so what. I only allow friends to see my pictures and my posts. How hard would it be to get added as a friend, from say high school? You know someone the class above or below. How diligent are we in verifying they really are a high school classmate? Once we let them in, they now have access. 

Prison staff may feel somewhat immune to these concerns. After all, inmates are in custody, presumably without access to the Internet or Facebook®. What about their friends on the outside? What about their criminal associates? What about former inmates? You really think they can’t get find you on a SNS? This also is not just some vague warning. There have been real world cases of law enforcement and corrections being attacked through information they posted on a SNS. 

How Your Facebook Profile Should Look to Non-Friends

 

The good news is we control the information that is posted in these forums. Some good Facebook® safety advice can be found at http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9180642/5_tips_to_protect_yourself_on_Facebook Additionally, I would strongly encourage making many of the Facebook® settings “Only me” with “Friends Only”, as a second option. The “Friends of Friends” option is very tricky as you are depending upon your friends and/or coworkers to be just as mindful of who they allow in or to see their information as you. (Above is a image of a Facebook Profile with the setting set to “Only Me”) .Finally, set your profile at the most restrictive search setting so you can’t be found easily. As the quote goes, “Keep it Secret, Keep it Safe,” sound advice for those in corrections with a social networking presence.

Art Internet Safety

January 2011 is National Stalking Awareness Month (NSAM)

December 1st, 2010

January 2011 is the 8th observance of National Stalking Awareness Month (NSAM). Approximately 3.4 million people are stalked annually and 1 in 4 victims reported the offense included a cyberstalking act.

Cyberstalking can be defined as … “the repeated use of the Internet, e-mail, or related digital electronic communications devices to annoy, alarm, or threaten a specific individual or group of  individuals.” (D’Ovidio and Doyle, 2003, p. 10) Cyberharassment is the use of the Internet where there is no specific threat to the victim. Examples of cyberharrassment are be posting unflattering comments on a social networking site, in a blog, or chatroom. Cyberbullying is usually the definition used when both the victim and the offender are juveniles. Cyberstalking, considered the most serious of the three, involves a credible threat of harm. The three are collectively referred under the broad term of Internet harassment. (Smith, 2008)  I will be posting a piece called “Supervising Internet Harassment Offenders” on December 7, 2010, to discuss the growing cyber aspect of this crime for corrections.

The NSAM Web site, presented by the Stalking Resource Center of the National Center for Victims of Crime and the Office on Violence Against Women of the U.S. Department of Justice is up and running.  The site includes resources to help individual plan for NSAM 2011 events and outreach on stalking throughout the year. You will find an interactive quiz on stalking, magnets, fact sheets, guides, event ideas, and media tools to raise awareness about stalking and publicize your events. Please check it out at http://www.stalkingawarenessmonth.org/about

References

D’Ovidio, Robert and Doyle, James (2003). “A Study on Cyberstalking: Understanding Investigative Hurdles” FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, Volume 72, No. 3, 10-17

Smith, Alison (2008) Protection of Children Online: Federal and State Laws Addressing Cyberstalking, Cyberharassment, and Cyberbullying. Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service

Art Internet Safety