Book tells story of victims of cybercrime

* Review of "Net Crimes & Misdemeanors"

As I’ve mentioned in other columns, I am delighted to publish my students’ work. Matthew Magliozzi was an excellent student in the Cybercrime & Cyberlaw course at Norwich University last fall, and I am pleased to present one of his edited extra-credit submissions for this column. In what follows, “I” refers to Magliozzi.

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J.A. Hitchcock has published a second edition of her book about Internet-mediated crime. Hitchcock has joined forces with Internet pioneer Vincent Cerf in _Net Crimes & Misdemeanors: Outmaneuvering Web Spammers, Stalkers, and Con Artists_ (CyberAge Books, 2006; ISBN 0-910-96572-2).

The book begins with a detailed account of Hitchcock's personal experiences as the victim of a cyberstalker. In “Cyberstalking Happened to Me,” she describes the fraudulent offers from fraudsters initially calling themselves the “Woodside Literary Agency” and then goes on to recount the tale of the e-mail bombs, the forged newsgroup postings and the lawsuits filed against the perpetrators with the support of fellow writers.

Hitchcock presents her experiences in an educational manner, not to garner sympathy. By explaining each step she took in the process of bringing Woodside to justice, she not only provides a guide for other victims to follow, but she also alerts the public to the difficulties one faces when reporting a computer crime to the authorities. This aspect alone makes the book worthwhile.

In “Words Can Hurt,” Hitchcock describes other instances of cyberstalking. She begins every chapter with definitions of essential terms and provides endnotes describing different acronyms or industry terms such as “sock puppet” (a secondary user ID intended to deceive others into believing that someone is a separate user).

The hallmark of her style that hits home more than any other cybercrime text is her presentation of personal stories. Hitchcock provides accounts of the victim experience on a personal level. She does not provide full names for the victims: they are simply “Nina,” “Andy,” “Katrina,” and so on. It is easy to become involved in these stories.

Hitchcock addresses specific laws in relation to the specific cases and avoids legalistic details. She closes out each chapter of her work with methods readers can take to protect themselves.

_Net Crimes_ would make an excellent supplement for an undergraduate course in cybercrime. Hitchcock addresses everything from spam to urban legends, eBay fraud, online dating fraud and phishing in terms of criminal acts. She also addresses steps law enforcement officials have taken both publicly in the community and on university campuses. Her work merits placement at the top of the college cybercrime literature list because her style resonates with students. I found that I could not put it down for long.

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