The Week in Online Safety, August 1, 2011

The Week in Online Safety, August 1, 2011
A weekly global view of online safety news, policy developments, research, and influence 

“Swatting” victimizes a prominent safety advocate.
Yesterday it was reported that prominent safety advocate Parry Aftab was victimized by a type of revenge hoax known as “swatting.”  MSNBC reported:
“Police received a 911 call from a man saying he had killed four people and was holding another hostage inside a home in Wyckoff, N.J. owned by Parry Aftab, a noted cybercrime lawyer and anti-cyberbullying crusader…When they got inside the house, police said they found it empty save for the family cat. No dead bodies, no hostage, no killer, no Parry Aftab.  It turns out the 911 call that sparked the suburban standoff did not come from Aftab's house, but was placed through a computer that "cloned" her number, making it appear to come from her. ” 

The FBI issued an official warning about “swatting” in 2008, and stated that “Law enforcement agencies at all levels are currently working with telecommunications providers around the country to help them address swatting activity.” Swatting perpetrators often use various methods of Caller ID spoofing.  According to a Wikipedia article, there are multiple methods for Caller ID spoofing, including online services that offer a web-based interface.    Caller ID spoofing was one of the tactics used by News of the World reporters to hack into voice mail messages. In response to security concerns related to Caller ID spoofing, Congress passed and President Obama signed the "Truth in Caller ID Act of 2010" which makes it a crime to "to cause any caller ID service to transmit misleading or inaccurate caller ID information, with the intent to defraud or deceive." However, the law does not outlaw the Caller ID spoofing services. 

Fallout from Norway Killings
The recent mass killings in Norway are causing new online safety anxieties in Europe and elsewhere.  Suspect Anders Behring Breivik’s use of violent video games has led stores in Norway to remove two games, "World of Warcraft" and "Call of Duty - Modern Warfare" that Breivik says he had played before his attack, AFP reports.  Escapist reports that “The Australian Christian Lobby is calling for a ban on violent videogames in the wake of the Oslo massacre, but the government says it's unreasonable to blame games for the behavior of a "madman."  German publication Deutsche Welle reports that officials from Finland, Estonia and Germany have all called for expanded monitoring of online hate groups after the attack. 

Online Safety Legislation
Rep. Lamar Smith and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz published an editorial, “Requiring Internet providers to retain user data is key to prosecution of online predators,”  supporting their bill, H.R. 1981 the "Protecting Children From Internet Pornographers Act of 2011." The bill would require ISPs to retain subscriber information for up to 18 months to help investigators track down child pornography offenders.  Privacy and civil liberties groups, such as the Center for Democracy and Technology, have voiced opposition to the bill, which they say would harm privacy rights. 


- Compiled by David Burt



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