The Top 5 Reasons That Cybercrime Is Ruining the Internet

On the wake of Microsoft rolling out it’s new Cybercrime Center, now would be a good time to discuss the necessity of such a center and why the internet’ s future looks bleak without it and other similar labs.

In a nutshell, the center is a multi-disciplinary task force assigned the unenviable task of providing high level policing of cybercrime or to nip in the bud criminal activity. Security engineers, digital forensics experts and lawyers are working together to stop alarming trends that include cyber-fraud, cyber-extortion and cyber-bullying.

Let’s take a look why this Center was put into place and the top reasons that if uncurbed, cybercrime could threaten the foundation of the internet and the wide-spread communication it has brought us.

1. Temptation. As years go by, more and more people are on the internet. It provides a form of communication that is swift and international. As more people see that they can “hide” behind their device, the more the temptation will be toward trying something criminal. It is very easy to lie to someone when you don’t see them. This is a recipe for disaster.

2. Trust. The more people that have been bamboozled via internet crime, the more likely the average person will begin to stay away. This is not what those who are developing viable, up and up technologies want to see. However, as is often the case, the few (but becoming more and more) ruin it for the many.

3. Hack-mania. The “hacking” culture has become a competitive nightmare. The so-called “clever ones” culture has become a race to be the cleverest. This doesn’t appear to be slowing down. Hacking, in many cases, is nothing more than a low-level curiosity.

4. Laws that can’t catch-up. The internet began some 30 years ago. It was the wild west. It is still the wild-west. Technology moved beyond the existing laws. Basically there were no laws for anything like the internet. Lawmakers have tried to address this but when you fall behind, it is very hard to catch-up, in this kind of game.

5. No deterent. For example – it may seem funny for some 12 year old boy fooling around with hacking bank information or stealing credit card money. He rides his bike home from school. Get’s on his laptop at home and does his thing. So he steals money from a retired grandmother of 6,who lives thousands of miles away and thinks secretly, “Wow, so easy and who is going to catch me?”, He is no worse for ware because he is not forced to confront the reality of his transgression because he lives in a virtual world. Until something is done to force a reentrance into a world of reality, it’s clear that this type of offence may become the norm rather than the exception. Not only have these people taken away the livelihoods of others, they’ve made a complete mess of one of the great discoveries on this planet.

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California Law Protects Website Users Under the Age of 18

California has become the first state to pass a law giving minors, those under the age of 18, the right to remove any information they have posted to a website. The law also restricts the website from selling their personal information.

The new law in California will be effective beginning January 1st, 2015. The law applies to any mobile service or website if it has members under the age of 18 who are also residents of the State of California. Needless to say, this will encompass a large number of websites and mobile apps.

Content Removal Rights

Websites will need to permit minors to remove information or any content they have posted. For example, if you have a forum and a minor has made forum posts, the minor must be allowed to remove the posts. If the minor has been banned from the site then the website owner will need to remove the content upon request from the minor.

This will be a minor inconvenience for some websites, but a major headache for others. Much will depend on how the website content is managed. For some sites deleting content site wide will be as easy as pushing a button. For other sites a manual and laborious task of finding and deleting content will be required. For those sites they will want to think twice about permitting minors to post and the ramifications if a minor user gets upset and then demands their content be removed.

Selling Personal Information

California law will prohibit websites from using personal information about a minor to market certain categories of products. Initially, this will include firearms and alcohol, as one might expect, but also aerosol paint, tanning products, and certain dietary supplements. It is reasonable to expect the list of prohibited items will only grow.

It is important to realize this ban will override the website’s privacy policy. A website cannot have a policy of using personal information to market these categories of products.

Time to Plan

The law was passed in 2013 and becomes effective beginning in 2015. This is to give website owners time to evaluate their website: who their users are, what content can be provided by users, how easy it is to remove content, what information is sold, and so on.

One issue will be to see if your website is or is not directed to minors and make necessary changes.

Claimed ignorance about the age of a user will not be a defense. The law says information such as their profile, what they say in their posts, their location and address or identifying themselves as going to school will be enough to put you on notice a minor is using your site.

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Data Protection As a Website Liability Issue

The much publicized lawsuits against Target arising from hacked breaches into its consumer credit and debit cards records is only the face of a rising trend of data protection lawsuits. Website liability today is no longer limited to what is on your website. It also includes the private data not publicly available.

Have you wondered how a spammer obtained your email address? Often it is the result of a website being hacked and email addresses stolen. That type of activity is now leading to lawsuits against website owners by consumers who rightfully demand that their personal information be protected.

The legal question that arises is – was the website negligent in maintaining, storing, and protecting private data?

When a hack occurs, no matter how sophisticated, the answer is likely to almost always be yes. It practical effect this is not a “negligence” standard but one of strict liability. If your website is hacked assume you face liability if private user information was compromised.

How to Protect Yourself

To protect yourself you can obtain business insurance. Make sure it is specialty insurance that covers this type of incident. If necessary, have an attorney review the policy. After a claim arises many businesses are shocked to learn the exclusions in their policy make it practically illusory.

To minimize potential damages, and possibly to avoid liability, have a security plan in place and show that something was done to protect user data. This may mean you do not host with Local Bubba’s web hosting company. This may mean you keep software up to date. This may mean your web forms and other access points are strengthened against attack. You should be using hard to hack user names and passwords.

The larger the business the more actions you will be expected to take. That does not mean a small business does not need to do anything. The more important the data the more steps you need to take to protect it. Financial records such as credit cards are probably more valuable than an email address.

Another liability problem Target has is failing to immediately notify customers of the data breach. When it comes to identity theft speed can be important in avoiding long-term problems. Target not only failed to notify its customers personally, the only notice it issue was on its corporation website – and then only after a third party disclosed the breach.

It is hard to imagine a more incompetent reaction and the company will be legally punished. Make sure this does not happen to you too. If a data breach arises be responsible and quickly own up to it. There is a saying arising from the Nixon days that the cover up is worse than the crime. Now, the cover up may be worse than not reporting the crime.

By taking these actions you may be able to avoid, or at least minimize, your exposure if customer data should be hacked from your website.

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Online Pornography and the Law

This article examines laws, regulations and case law related to online pornography in selected jurisdictions to assess their effectiveness and limitations.

1 The United States and online pornography

“There have been many attempts in the United States to regulate online pornography, although not all of them have been successfully implemented”.

1.1 The Communications Decency Act (CDA), 1996

The CDA was the first federal law to impose significant constraints on internet communications. It imposed criminal sanctions on anyone who:

knowingly (A) uses an interactive computer service to send to a specific person or persons under 18 years of age, or (B) uses any interactive computer service to display in a manner available to a person under 18 years of age, any comment, request, suggestion, proposal, image, or other communication that, in context, depicts or describes, in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards, sexual or excretory activities or organs.

It further criminalised the transmission of materials that were “obscene or indecent” to persons known to be under 18.

So, under the CDA regime, an ISP was liable for allowing dissemination of obscene or indecent material to minors over Internet facilities it controlled and could be criminally punishable by a fine or imprisonment for up to two years or both. However, the ISP could defend itself that it acted in good faith to take reasonable, effective and appropriate actions to prevent minors from receiving indecent material through the Internet. It could also use the defence based on the distinction between an access service provider and a content provider. If the ISP could prove that it only provided access to a network without interfering with the content, it would have been exempted from liability. If it is established that it acted as a content provider, then it will be criminally liable for transmitting indecent materials to a minor.

However, in Reno v American Civil Liberties Union the US Supreme Court found unconstitutional certain provisions of the CDA that were intended to protect minors from harmful material on the Internet.

This judgement implied that ISPs could no longer be held liable for the transmission to minors of indecent or obscene materials under the CDA. Thus, a quick reaction from the Congress was required to fill what could be considered as a gap. This reaction came with the enactment of the Child Online Protection Act, sometimes referred to as CDA II.

1.2 The Child Online Protection Act (COPA), 1998

Unlike the CDA, the COPA prohibited the transmission of material that is harmful to minors rather than material that is indecent or obscene. Section 231 (a) (1) provided that:

Whoever knowingly and with knowledge of the character of the material, in interstate or foreign commerce by means of the World Wide Web, makes any communication for commercial purposes that is available to any minor and that includes any material that is harmful to minors shall be fined not more than $50 000, imprisoned not more than 6 months, or both.

Consequently, Commercial site operators who offered material deemed to be harmful to minors were required to use bona fide methods to establish the identification of visitors seeking to access their sites. Failure to do so could result in criminal liability with fines of up to $50 000 and six months in jail for each offence.

On the other hand, ISPs who simply provide access to harmful content to minors could hardly see their responsibility engaged since ISPs cannot be expected to be aware of the character of all materials transmitted through their servers. Indeed, it is technically impossible for them to monitor the enormous quantity of network traffic, which may consist of hundred of thousands of web pages.

The constitutionality of the COPA was challenged almost immediately after its enactment. In ACLU v Reno II, the Third Circuit Court found the COPA to be unconstitutionally overbroad because it prohibited a wide range of constitutionally protected speech. The Supreme Court upheld that decision.

Thus, the second attempt of Congress to regulate online pornography also failed.

1.3 The Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) 2000

The CIPA required schools and libraries that receive government funding to install filtering technology that blocks or filters Internet access to visual depictions that are obscene, or harmful to minors as well as child pornography in respect of children under the age of 17 years.

This Act was held invalid under the First Amendment because it required libraries to use filtering technology that inadvertently blocks access to thousands of legitimate websites while allowing access to some pornographic websites.

Upon appeal to the Supreme Court, however, the law was upheld as constitutional as a condition imposed on institutions in exchange for government funding. In upholding the law, the Supreme Court made it clear that the constitutionality of CIPA would be upheld only “if, as the Government represents, a librarian will unblock filtered material or disable the Internet software filter without significant delay on an adult user’s request.”

1.4 The Child Pornography Prevention Act (CPPA), 1996

The CPPA criminalizes the creation, possession and transmission of digital child pornography, whether the pornographic image is computer generated or an actual photograph.

The constitutionality of the CPPA has been challenged in several federal courts resulting in conflicting decisions. However in Achcroft v Free Speech Coalition, the Supreme Court overturned the provisions of the CPPA that made it a crime to possess or distribute any sexually explicit image that appeared to be a minor engaged in a sexual act because it violated the protection of free speech.

2 United Kingdom

2.1 The Obscene Publications Act, 1959

In terms of the Obscene Publications Act, mere possession of an obscene article is not an offence. Possession with the intention of publication for gain, however, is an offence. As set out in the case of R v Fellows & Arnold, the offence may be committed simply by making obscene material available for electronic transfer or downloading by another party who is thus enabled to access and copy that material. “It thus follows that an ISP which provides online access and hosting in exchange for a subscription fee could face liability for an obscene website created by a subscriber, hosted by the ISP and to which the ISP provides access”.

ISPs can also face liability for transmission of obscene material over the Internet under the Broadcasting Act 1990. This Act extends the Obscene Publications Act to incorporate live and pre-recorded ‘programme services’.

So under this legislation, an ISP who hosts a website containing obscene material provided by a third party and who has requisite knowledge could face liability as the publisher of that obscene article. It has also been suggested that an ISP which provides Internet access to a known publisher of obscene materials may face liability, even where the material in question is hosted on the other party’s own server.

No prosecutions, to date, however, have been brought against ISPs with respect to obscene material and, as noted by Gavin Sutter, it is unlikely that such a case would happen anytime soon unless an ISP was sufficiently aware and failed to act. With the establishment of the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), self-regulation has proved to be a better and more effective solution to law. The IWF will be dealt with later in this dissertation.

2.2 The Protection of Children Act 1978

This Act criminalises the creation, the distribution and the possession of child pornography.

An ISP may be criminally liable as an accessory to a crime under section 3 of the Protection of Children Act if it carries illegal content such as child pornography on its servers. But it should be realized that the initial responsibility for generation and dissemination of child pornography lies with the authors and not ISPs. The responsibility of the ISP is only possible if the ISP who is aware of the existence of child pornography on its servers fails to take reasonable steps to remove it. Thus, it can be said that ‘knowingly’ carrying child pornography would bring liability for the UK ISPs even though actual knowledge is not a requirement under the 1978 Act.

3 The Council of Europe’s Convention on Cybercrime, 2001

Given disparities on the regulation of child pornography around the world, harmonization efforts have been undertaken at international level to deal with the issue; this is the case of the Council of Europe’s Convention on Cybercrime. Article 9 (1) of this Convention provides that each Party shall adopt such legislative and other measures as may be necessary to establish as criminal offences under its domestic law, when committed intentionally and without right, the following conduct:

• Producing child pornography for the purpose of its distribution through a computer system;
• Offering or making available child pornography through a computer system;
• Distributing or transmitting child pornography through a computer system;
• Procuring child pornography through a computer system for oneself or for another;
• Possessing child pornography in a computer system or on a computer data store medium.

South Africa as one of the signatories to this Convention has implemented this provision in terms of the Films and Publications Act No 65 as amended in 1999 to make the exploitive use of children in pornographic publications, films or on the Internet, punishable.

4 South Africa and online pornography

4.1 The Films and Publications Act No 65 of 1996

This Act regulates the creation, production, possession and distribution of pornography in South Africa. It also specifically outlaws child pornography, notably on the Internet.

Let us analyse instances where an ISP can incur liability in terms of this Act, i.e for distribution of pornography to minors as well as for possession and distribution of child pornography.

4.1.1 Distribution of pornography to minors

According to the Films and Publications Act No 18 of 2004, distribution includes… the fact of handling or exhibiting a film or a publication to a person under the age of 18 years, and also the failure to take reasonable steps to prevent access thereto by such a person. Consequently, ISPs could face criminal liability for allowing access to pornography to minors on their servers under this Act. This reminds us provisions of the CDA and COPA intended to prevent access to pornography to minors and their fate in the US. So it is interesting to see that South Africa has succeeded where the US legislator has failed.

This Act prohibits the distribution of pornography to minors. So an ISP could be held liable for distributing to minors inter alia a publication or a film classified XX or X18 or a film not classified at all. But to be liable, an ISP needs to distribute pornography knowingly. It is therefore unlikely that an ISP who simply provides access to Internet without monitoring the content could be held liable for access to pornography to minors on its servers. It results that the duty of ISPs to prevent access to online pornography to minors is unlikely to be effective, parents or guardians are probably the first ant best defense for protecting children from pornography over the Internet. As regards the content provider, it is likely to be liable if it fails to take reasonable steps to prevent access by children to pornography and to face a sentence to a fine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years or to both.

4.1.2 Possession & distribution of child pornography

The Films and Publications Act was amended in 1999 to make the exploitive use of children in pornographic publications, films or on the Internet, punishable. Possession of child pornography

Possession is defined in relation to a film or a publication in the Films and Publications Act No 65 as amended as including the keeping or storing in or on a computer system or computer data storage medium and also the fact of having custody, control or supervision on behalf of another person. And section 21 (1) (a) (i) of the same Act states that any person who is in possession of a film or publication which contains child pornography shall be guilty of an offence and further may be sentenced to a fine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding ten years or to both in terms of section 30 (1A). What this implies for ISP? May they face liability for keeping or storing child pornography on their servers?

It is submitted that ISPs would not be considered in possession of child pornography unless they are aware of its presence on their servers, in which case they have a duty to remove such material and only failure to do so exposes them to liability.

The application and interpretation of Section 27 of the Films and Publications Act related inter alia to the criminalization of the possession of child pornography was considered in the case of De Reuck v Director of Public Prosecutions, case in which De Reuck charged for possession of child pornography challenged the constitutionality of the definition of child pornography. The Witwatersrand High Court dismissed the applicant’s challenge and held the definition to be constitutional; on appeal, the Constitutional Court upheld that decision. Distribution of child pornography

The Films and Publications Act No 65 punishes the distribution of child pornography of the same penalty as its possession, i.e. a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding 10 years or both. But, like possession, the distribution of child pornography requires the requisite knowledge of it by the ISP to give rise to liability. So ISPs who distribute child pornography in the carrying on of their business without being aware of the content of that material will be exempted from liability under the Films and Publications Act. However that Act imposes obligations on ISPs in order to prevent the use of their services for the hosting or distribution of child pornography as well as a close cooperation with the South African Police Services in the combat against child pornography.

One should also note that ISPs who merely provide access to or host child pornography without being aware of the content thereof may be exempted from liability in terms of the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act No 25 of 2002.

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Computer Programs Copyright Protection in South Africa


This paper gives a modest contribution to the issue of computer programs copyright and its protection under South African law. It uses as a case study the decision of the Supreme Court of Appeal in Haupt T/A Soft Copy v Brewers Marketing Intelligence (Pty) Ltd and Others 2006 (4) SA 458 (SCA) (the Haupt’s case). What is the implication of this decision for South Africa in terms of copyright protection? Is South African copyright protection of software too soft? What consequences this decision can entail as far as software industry is concerned in South Africa? Can it scare off potential investors?

Here are some of the issues the paper is looking at. The paper is divided into three sections. The first section will give a brief view of the case, the second will deal with the concept and regulation of copyrights, finally the third will address the discussion of the case. The paper will end up with a conclusion.


Haupt, the appellant, applied to the Cape High Court for an order interdicting the respondents in terms of the Copyright Act of 1978 from infringing his alleged copyright in some computer programs. The High Court held that Haupt’s claim could not be sustained and dismissed the application. The decision of the Cape High Court was reversed by the Supreme Court of Appeal which set an order interdicting the respondents from infringing the appellant’s copyright in the computer programs.


2.1 Concept of Copyrights

2.1.1 Definition

Copyrights are referred to as rights to ensure protection of information from duplication and distribution. They are a subset of intellectual property rights that aim to create a balance between the rights of an individual against those of the public by conferring the author or creator of a work the exclusive right to control and profit of his work.

2.1.2 Infringement of Copyright

The most relevant infringing activities to computer programs involve “copying”, “adapting” and publicly distributing the work. In each case the activity can be in relation to the whole of the work or a substantial part of it.

2.2 Regulation

Before dealing with the regulation of computer programs copyright in South Africa, regard must be had to the way this question has been addressed in other jurisdictions and internationally, since this matter has a high international scope.

2.2.1 World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)

Computer programs are protected as literary works within the meaning of article 2 of the Berne Convention. Such protection applies to computer programs, whatever may be the mode or the form of their expression (article 4).

The Berne Convention provides that copyright vests in the author of a work (article3).

As illustrated below the approach taken by the WIPO is the general position throughout the world.

2.2.2 Australia

In terms of section 10(1) the Australian Copyright Act of 1968, computer programs are protected as literary works.

2.2.3 United Kingdom

Like in Australia, “literary work” has been extended in the UK Copyright (Computer Programs) Regulations 1992 to include preparatory design material for a computer program.

2.2.4 The European Union

The EU Directive 91/250/EEC of 14 May 1991 on the legal protection of computer programs requires that computer programs and associated design materials be protected under copyright as literary works within the sense of the Berne Convention.

2.2.5 Japan

Japan is one of the rare industrialized countries where computer programs are not protected as literary works. The Japanese Copyright Act 48 of 1970 under articles 21 and 27 grants the author of a computer program the exclusive right to reproduce and adapt his work.

2.2.6 South Africa

Copyrights are regulated in South Africa by the Copyright Act 98 of 1978. This Act provides copyright protection for a wide variety of works, such as literary works, musical works, artistic works, computer programs, etc. and states as a general rule that copyright vests in the person who creates the relevant work. Nevertheless since the amendment of 1992, computer programs gained a special status in terms of which the copyright vests in the person who exercised control over the making of the computer program, rather than the programmer who created the work.

Now that the legal framework of copyright has been set, we can discuss the decision of the Haupt’s case accordingly.


3.1 Establishment of the infringement

As pointed out above this is a case of an alleged infringement of copyright in computer programs.

First, for infringement of copyright to be established, it is submitted that a plaintiff must satisfy two tests:

– a causal connection between the alleged infringement and the copyright work;
– there must be objective similarity

In the case at issue, the infringement is clearly established since these two tests are satisfied, indeed there is a causal connection between the copyright work and the infringement because some portions of the work have been copied, creating therefore an objective similarity.

Nevertheless, the question that can come to one’s mind is how come the program was created by the first respondent and it is the appellant who is considered as the author while there was no employment contract. It is simply because according to the Copyright Amendment Act of 1992, the copyright of computer programs vests not in the programmer who created the program but in the person who exercised the control over the making of the program, which is here the appellant.

No doubt that this decision is consistent with the Copyright Act. But is the approach taken by the Act the most suitable for the protection of copyrights in South Africa?

3.2 Suitability of computer programs copyright protection in South Africa

As noted above, South Africa has taken a position utterly different from most of foreign jurisdictions and the WIPO as well in the issue of computer programs copyright. Indeed, since 1992 computer programs are no longer protected as literary works with the implication that the copyright in the former programs has shifted from the creator of the work to the person exercising control over the making of the program.
What is the rationale of this approach when one knows that copyright is a legal means to encourage and protect human creativity and innovation?

It seems to me a peculiar position, since it takes away all the rationale of copyrights. Roos (“Rabble Rousing for Cyber Heads: Development in South Africa’s IP law and international investment concerns” (No 82/2006), CIPS), on the other hand, contends that the fact that the copyright is shifted from the real creator to the person who exercises control over the making of the program does not really matter since the copyright still exists.

I definitely do not share this position, my personal opinion is that: to award copyright to the wrong person is nothing else that negation of copyright.

But where I agree with Roos is when he states that this decision will not scare off potential investors, since the investors have after all a coinciding interest with the party in which favour the court found.

So, as far as I am concerned, what I can say is that the rationale followed by the legislature in passing the Copyright Amendment Act of 1992 is more economic than copyright oriented. Indeed it strengthens the position of parties already strong by giving them more power and does not really protect nor encourage human creativity by defending the works of the mind.

Is this difference between South Africa and other jurisdictions and international bodies merely superficial?

3.3 South African approach contra international approach

As mentioned by Roos, the mere difference between the South African and the international handling of a computer program should not be confused with the prospect of less protection. Nevertheless does not the difference in this instance amount to discrepancy?

Roos contends that there is no discrepancy since South Africa protects the copyright in computer programs. He contends that the difference is merely superficial.

I do not agree with Roos on this point, I am of the view that the difference is substantial. Indeed, as we have seen in the second section, the WCT protects computer programs as literary works while South Africa protects computer programs as a category of its own. The copyright vests in the creator of the work in terms of the WCT while in South Africa, the copyright vests in the person exercising control over the making of the computer program. That makes all the difference, which definitely amounts to discrepancy.

How can programmers protect themselves against the flaws of the legislation?

3.4 Contractual clauses

It is fortunate that programmers have still a way to protect their copyrights in the computer programs they are creating through contractual clauses stipulating that the copyright vests in them. Indeed, as submitted by Roos, “most programmers with an interest in retaining the copyright should reasonably negotiate that the copyright vests in them”. But are programmers really in a position to negotiate any copyright clause favouring them with parties far more powerful than they are? Therefore the efficiency of these clauses in protecting the programmers’ rights is still to be seen.


There is no doubt that the decision of the Supreme Court of Appeal in the Haupt’s case is in compliance with the Copyright Act, so the decision in se is not a bad one but the problem is to be found in the legislation that has made possible this decision. The legislation, as noted in this paper, has taken a wrong approach in protecting the copyright in computer programs that needs to be fixed despite the fact that this is unlikely to scare off potential investors. Thus, in making a final decision on the copyright of computer programs, it is essential that South Africa consider the international situation and adapts its laws accordingly. A purely domestic solution is unlikely to be successful since the multimedia era requires consistency across the legal systems of the world.

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Missing Persons Investigations of a New Age

George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four was first published in 1949. You’d have thought that his vision would no longer be up-to-date 65 years later. The world he described was a world where Big Brother was watching people, constantly seeking information about crime think or any other kind of offence against the glorious super state of Oceania.

Edward Snowden showed us, that what Big Brothers these days are doing is not all that different from what Orwell described. Sure, the technology is quite different from what he had envisioned, but Orwell’s novel is not about science and technology, but about the horrible world where governments might monitor our every move, observe us in our most intimate moments and know about everything we do. Modern day supercomputers, satellites and all sorts of technology make that easily possible for various government agencies.

Yet there is so much information out there that is easily accessible without any spying satellites, supercomputers or without bugging mobile phones. It’s the information millions of users are putting online every day of their own free will, just to get some likes, re-tweets or shares. People tell themselves that they are doing this to stay in touch with each other, but they fail to realize how much of their personal information they are giving away every moment of every day.

With more than half of Australians being active on Facebook, it seems like this would be the most promising social network to start an investigation. The information found on Facebook is truly varied. There are photographs, comments as well as check-ins that give away a person’s current location. Furthermore there is a time stamp on everything, which makes it easy to create a collage of events a person went through at a certain time. No special equipment is needed for all of this with much of it capable of being performed with a simple smart phone.

Of course people tend to forget, that social media doesn’t mean just Facebook and Twitter. Apart from other household names like LinkedIn, Google+ or Pinterest, there are dozens of other smaller, niche websites that cater to all sorts of profiles. Finding information across all of these platforms can turn into a large investigation on its own.

Investigating social media is not only about snooping either. People tend to forget, that Facebook is first and foremost a platform for communication. As many people from the younger generations no longer even have a landline and choose not to publicly reveal their mobile number, Facebook and other social media may be an easy way of tracking them down for communication or to even serve court documents.

Being a private investigator and not knowing anything about social media is something that has become unimaginable in this day and age. While traditional methods such as surveillance are still very effective, they are considerably supplemented with comprehensive desktop investigation based on extensive social media profiling and as the next generation moves more of their life onto the internet the value of this brand of profiling is only going to increase.

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Open Source Intelligence

Open source intelligence, or OSINT, is defined by the ability to gather data (or intelligence) from documented sources that are accessible to the public. The “open” aspect refers to the information being observable and unconcealed from the international community. Basically anyone with a computer can have access to this information or intelligence. People research this intelligence by way of different media sources, such as TV, newspaper, radio and internet, to name a few.

Open source intelligence is now being used by businesses, large and small, to gather information about their competitor’s products, clients and every other component related to the business. This is what is known as competitive intelligence, or business intelligence. In order to get on top and stay on top, companies have to prepare well-planned marketing tools to boost their recognition in the business world. OSINT is a great means for businesses to use because it is legal. There are illicit methods of intelligence gathering on the dealings of competitors, but going that route would look bad for your company.

The use of OSINT also aids in seeking out and locating any possible signs of liabilities and favorable circumstances in the business field. For marketing purposes, it is important to determine these signs of intelligence prior to them being noticeable. That way, any company that has the specific marketing intelligence in hand will be a step ahead of its competitors.

Reverse image search is one method defined by OSINT. Reverse image searches can be done by looking up a picture on the internet through a search engine, such as Google. Instead of searching by key words, you upload the picture in the search field. With this technology, one can find a certain product on the internet and then determine where it was originally placed. That would lead the researcher back to the original manufacturer, or company which created the product in question. OSINT used in this way allows you to cut out the middle man.

OSINT also serves companies in a positive manner by providing them with the ability to search for websites which use identical AdSense or analytics accounts. At these websites, you can search for other competitor companies by domain name, IP address, email or ID. With this service, you can find out what company or person owns the rights to certain companies, businesses, products and domain names on the internet and connect the dots. This can be particularly useful when investigating a website which has concealed its registrant details as a link could be drawn between the analytics and AdSense accounts connected to the website leading to a positive ID.

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Facebook Friends or Enemies? You Have Been Served

Social media sites are not unfamiliar to the investigative and legal worlds. A lawyer, whether acting as a defence attorney or working for the prosecution, would be remiss without doing some basic searches among social media, and a private investigator might well find the key to the case somewhere on Facebook or Twitter. A little hunting around might reveal that someone on the other side has been #up to no good!#

Yet Facebook use officially authorised by the court system is of fairly recent vintage. Australia was the first, back in 2008, to allow a Facebook message as a means of alternative service of court papers, in that case a foreclosure notice. Since then, the practise has become more widespread in Australia and New Zealand, joined by Canada in 2011, England’s High Court allowed it in February 2012, and just weeks ago, a state court in New York authorised a father to serve child support papers on his former wife via Facebook message.

It’s logical enough – people being served legal papers of any kind typically don’t want to be found. Often they’ve fled known previous addresses and have taken any number of steps to stay off the official radar, probably changing phone numbers and email addresses. This can make all traditional forms of service virtually impossible. In this social media dominated age, Facebook seems like a viable alternative. Everyone knows plenty of people who seemingly can’t be reached outside of Facebook, but are easy to find (and find out a lot about!) on Facebook.

However, there are a few things the legal world has to watch out for. The court has to be convinced that traditional service of papers has been tried and failed and that the Facebook account belongs to the right person and is still in regular use. Moreover, all of this has to be determined within the legal code of ethics that would forbid so-called predatory friending. An investigator can’t simply send a friend request to the man who defaulted on his mortgage to make sure he’s still getting messages that way.

The use of Facebook messaging in such cases has often moved cases along toward a legal resolution – a good outcome, for sure. In a bit of a twist, Facebook is pretty happy about it, too! Where one might expect the company to wish to avoid the negative associations, when company spokespersons have spoken about it, they have expressed pleasure that courts have validated the security of Facebook’s internal messaging function.

Who knows, it could lead into a new line of business for the social networking site! There is already a growing link between Facebook use and divorce, and there are plenty of Facebook pages, like this one, offering free access to divorce papers and tools for filing them. From start to finish, then, from cause to resolution, Facebook, like Google before it, can be everywhere. With an estimated 1,317 billion Facebook users, there are plenty of potential players in the Facebook legal drama.

Cyber Caliphate Association?

Just chanced upon this interesting read off CNN.

Looks like the war on terror that the 43rd President of the United States waged has spiraled into another sphere of war.

From the conventional means of fighting wars on the front, we have now transitioned into cyber warfare.

And it cannot mean too good for us.

Similarly with the reporters without borders, where the freedom of the press doesn’t stop at a country’s jurisdiction, us, normal citizens are being embroiled into a war that we do not want, where crime does not recognize the limitations of the physical world.

If we dissect it simply, terrorists or self proclaimed jihadists are fighting for a cause. To fight for the name of Islam. But these terrorists have the faintest idea that their ideology is perverted by their preachers or whoever that they proclaimed their clerics to be.

The job of fighting these crime that was commonly known to use firearms and brutal force, were always checked by our crime fighting organizations.

These terrorist organizations have grown savvy over the decade… and comes along the C.C.A– or the Cyber Caliphate Association.

These breed of criminals are different, they engage their warfare in a different manner where no firearms, or brutal force is required. They comprise of individuals who are talented and possess skills which no ordinary terrorist has.

What scares me most is how safe Singapore would be from such attacks? Our economy survives on infrastructures which are mostly digitized and on platforms which are stored and locked away in the cyber world, and like just any doors, they can be unlocked if the perpetrator is skilled enough.

Live case scenario

How do we insure ourselves from these attacks? No doubt the Singapore government is always assuring us that our cyber security is equipped with the best defenses. There has been cases where money were missing, unauthorized withdrawals made. And since then, there has been very few cases reported where money were stolen.

My concern is, if it was this easy to steal money, what about personal data? What about the safety of our assets, social security passwords and so on?

Protect yourself from unauthorized usage of your personal data by registering your contact details via the PDPA website. This is the least we can do to protect ourselves from the prying hands of cyber-terrorists like the CCA.

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WhatsApp, iMessage, and Snapchat Attacked Because of Their Encryption

You can not realistically ban encryption. Encryption is used to protect communication through electronic devices; it protects your bank information and online accounts. This is cryptography, it is used in hundreds of systems. We have politicians speaking about banning these technologies. How can this be? British Prime minister David Cameron has raised a red flag on encrypted messaging apps like WhatsApp, iMessage, and Snapchat. He has called for the banning of these apps; implying that they are being used by criminal organizations and terrorists to communicate.

“In our country, do we want to allow a means of communication between people which we cannot read?”, rhetorically said by the Prime Minister

With this sort of logic I am going to go as far as to say; we should leave our houses and cars unlocked; and valuables left unguarded in public spaces because surely it would be much simpler to catch thieves and put them in prison.

Security is not just for what the social norm calls the “good guys”. It is a two way street. I would rather have peace of mind that my data is being protected so well; to the point that Government officials can not tap into it. Think about the various ways this could go wrong. Imagine corrupt politicians with access to data or just consider that lightening up on security measures, will make it easier for the average hacker to gain access.

Computer scientists have spoken out on the futility of weakening encryption; so only Government officials have access.This same weaknesses can be exploited by malicious hackers. This view is held by many computer experts actively in the field.

A few months back a ban was called on WhatsApp in the UK; it has recently been dropped because of mass criticism. But this can of worms has not been closed just yet. This has just pushed the issue to other parts of the world; where they can theoretically gain some traction and spread. India has a ban on certain types of encryption. WhatsApp uses end to end encryption; which is illegal in India. WhatsApp uses a 256bit encryption which is only known by the sender and the receiver. India only allows 40bit encryption if you want to have permission you need to apply through the Government. The Indian Government has asked for the keys to be able to gain access; but WhatsApp creators have said they do not have them. So all user using the latest version of WhatsApp in India are technically breaking the law. No actions have been decided on what to do with the company; they are not based in India making things complicated. Recently Brazilian authorities have been reported to have been reported to be collecting WhatsApp data with the hopes of fighting drug tracking. WhatsApp has been cooperating with law enforcement; but have gone on to say that they cannot provide the full extent of what they want. We are just uncovering what’s on the surface; do some research on what your local Government and even internet service providers are doing; and what data they are doing with this data.

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