I was mentioned in the Eastern Door News paper about the Internet Safety class I gave in April 2009 to Parents, Teachers, Fire Department.
Fifteen-year-old Amy had been hounding her mother to sign up for Internet service at home. It would be easier for Amy because she was lready
using the Internet at the public library and school anyway. Why not at home?
Through her own investigation, Amy’s mother discovered the underbelly of the Internet, learning that her daughter had been sharing many personal conversations with Bill, a convicted stalker who appeared to be sympathetic to her, whom she had met in an online chat room on the library computer.
Bill was “sympathetic” to Amy’s dreams and desires. By getting to know and sympathizing with her concerns or fears, Bill was able to break down her inhibitions.
When Julie was 13 she started talking to Tom. He didn’t act or even sound like a 56-yearold man, she said in her story on netsmartz.com. “It was nice to have someone to talk to and not tell me what to do. I trusted him more than I trusted anyone else.” Julie eventually left home for three weeks, only to discover that Tom was a convicted murderer. Julie is safe today, but fears for her life. Tom, the convicted murderer who is back in jail, has threatened to one day kill her .
Amy is safe at home now, but she still receives strange phone calls at all hours of the day and night. These are just two stories among thousands emerging as society becomes more aware of the dangers of the Internet for children, and in a large number of these horrifying stories the parents had no idea, until it was almost too late, that the predators on the Internet were suckering- in their children to kidnap, rape and murder them.
“Parents are clueless when it comes to the Internet and the dangers lurking out there,’ said Terry Cutler, a Certified Ethical Hacker who often gives presentations for adults and educators on how to protect your children from the dangers of the Internet. “Parents shouldn’t allow their kids to put their information on Facebook or MySpace,” he warns, “And for that matter anywhere else.” ICQ (I Seek You), another form of real time chatting, and even MSN Messenger, where you can post your pictures in the chat box, can also be a security risk in the hands of a predator.
Instant messengers, or IMs as they are referred to, online games, an unsecured WiFi network, Skype and web cams, Cutler says, are also gateways tools for a predator. “There is just too much information children put out there,” says Cutler, “and all of it can be used to piece together information of someone they are talking to online, or grooming.” Grooming doesn’t have to be online, but the Internet gives pedophiles the anonymity to act more freely, and access to children who are not under direct parental control.
It’s just the beginning, say RCMP officials, of going from initial contact with children by fostering a relationship with them over time and eventually coaxing the young people into a one-on-one hook up without parental supervision. “The simple goal of any online predator is to lure your child out of the house for sex,” said Cutler.
“Sometimes it involves flattery, sometimes sympathy, other times offers of gifts, money, or modeling jobs.” Befriending your child Online groomers use phrases like “I am just like you. I am as awkward as you. Parents can be a hassle. I understand what you are going through. I like what you like. Let’s talk. I can buy you this if your parents won’t. Let’s meet.” “They befriend the young person and then make the offer,” said Cutler.
“If a young person has to consult with parents about leaving the house, then the groomer moves on, but if the child agrees?” RCMP reports that from the time grooming begins to the time of a first meeting can be as little as a few weeks. Once there is a meeting outside the home, the result can be horrifying.
I’m a government cleared cybersecurity expert (a Certified Ethical Hacker), and the Vice-President of Cyber at SIRCO, an investigations and protections firm in Montréal, Canada.
I’m also a frequent contributor to National & Global media reportage about cyber-crime, spying, security failures, internet scams, and the real social network dangers that families and individuals face every day.