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iPredators: Cyberbullying to cyber-harassing troll cop from hell

Oct 24, 20126 mins
Data and Information SecurityMicrosoftSecurity

October is pegged to raise awareness about cyberbullying, cybersecurity and domestic violence, but an iPredator can play a part in all three. While getting help from the authorities is not always easy, what about when the cyber-creep doing the harassing and trolling is a cop?

Not only is October pegged as cybersecurity month, it is also national bullying prevention awareness month. When it comes to cyberbullying, there are thousands of articles online about the tragic suicide of 15-year-old Amanda Todd and how Anonymous may have unmasked the man who bullied her into sending pictures which he later posted online and sent to her friends. While the man responsible for tormenting the Canadian teenager was a creep and a bully, since an adult was involved then it technically wasn’t cyberbullying, according to Stop cyberbullying. It’s only cyberbullying when peer-on-peer minors are involved. “Once adults become involved, it is plain and simple cyber-harassment or cyberstalking. Adult cyber-harassment or cyberstalking is NEVER called cyberbullying.”

Not everyone agrees with that definition. When talking about how cracking down on cyberbullying is a top priority, King County, Seattle Sheriff Steve Strachan said, “Technology-based crimes of harassment and intimidation affect young and old. As we progress and become more dependent on Internet-based communication, a cyberbully can target a senior citizen as easily as a young teen. We need to better understand the criminal environment and trends.”

What about when the cop is the cyberspace bully? I recalled this poor woman’s nightmare story in which a cop was called a Facebook troll, although his “vile actions” went far beyond trolling. It began when 45 year-old Nicola Brookes was told by her daughter that bullies were harassing X Factor contestant Frankie Cocozza via Facebook. Brookes, who doesn’t watch the show, tried to encourage Cocozza by posting this message: “Keep your friends and your family close, Frankie. They’ll move on to someone else soon.”

From the no-good-deed-goes-unpunished department, she was instantly attacked online and within 24 hours had more than 100 abusive messages suggesting she should die and that she was a “desperate pedo b**** and a ****ing dog.”  Then someone setup a Facebook profile in her name, using her picture and personal email address, and sent nasty explicit messages to thousands of kids as young as 9. Naked Security wrote that these messages described Brookes as “a drug dealer, a prostitute, a pedophile, and a known child abuser, while other messages tried to ‘Friend’ young girls.” It didn’t stop there. On Mother’s Day, they published her home address.

That was just a sampling of what happened to Brookes. Facebook didn’t help her, so she took it to the UK police who didn’t help and told her to go home. She took it to High Court, resulting in a “landmark court order” forcing Facebook to disclose the “trolls’ names, email addresses and IP addresses.” Then the police acted and arrested a cop as one of the suspected perps responsible. The Daily Mail said, “Lee Rimell, a serving West Midlands Police officer, has been arrested over the abuse posted online to Miss Brookes.”

Brookes said she was “horrified” that one of the Facebook trolls may be a cop.

It’s disgusting. Nothing surprises me anymore. I feel absolutely let down by the system. I’ve had to wait nine months for this arrest. I’m so happy that the authorities are finally doing something about this. My life has been ruined for so long.

However, it didn’t get better for Brookes after the cop was arrested as a suspect. Instead, it got worse for her: “The abuse and trolling of me has increased.”

If such online actions are only considered to be “trolling,” then maybe it’s trolls from hell? When an adult partakes in cyberbullying it’s called “cyber harassment.” Dr. Michael Nuccitelli, a New York State licensed psychologist and certified forensic consultant, best describes such attacks as coming from an iPredator. “iPredator is a global term used to distinguish anyone who engages in criminal, deviant or abusive behaviors using Information and Communications Technology (ICT.)”

October is National Anti-Bullying Awareness Month, National Cyber Security Awareness Month and Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and online predators can play a part in all three. Dr. Nuccitelli launched the very informative website iPredator. An iPredator is:

a child, adult or group who, directly or indirectly, engages in exploitation, victimization, stalking, theft or disparagement of others using Information and Communications Technology (ICT.) iPredators are driven by deviant fantasies, desires for power and control, retribution, religious fanaticism, political reprisal, psychiatric illness, perceptual distortions, peer acceptance or personal and financial gain. iPredators can be any age, either gender and not bound by economic status, race or national heritage. Whether the offender is a cyberbullycyberstalker, cyber harasser, cybercriminalonline sexual predator, internet troll or cyber terrorist, they fall within the scope of iPredator.

All of this is tied to Dark Psychology, but it seems needless to pay for information and checklists about cyber-creeps since there is plenty of knowledge and resources online to be found for free. If you are only interested in better understanding or preventing cyberbullying, then all kinds of cyberbully articles came out this month besides the heartbreaking story of a teenager’s suicide. If you haven’t seen her video, warning . . . you may cry for her.

This seems like a good idea for schools: Bloomburg ISD was awarded $100,000 grant to implement a CyberBully Hotline which “enables students to text reports of bullying, harassment, intimidation or other concerns, discretely and anonymously.” CNN reported on two studies showing that bullying and abuse are closely associated with suicidal thoughts in kids, and that mood disorders may also play a part in suicidal thinking. Along those lines of abuse, New America Media published “My anger turned me into a cyberbully.”

Stay safe out there.

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ms smith

Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.