Net Crimes & Misdemeanors
Outmaneuvering Web spammers,
stalkers, and con artists
by Jayne A. Hitchcock
Published by Information Today Inc. (2006)
459 pages + website
~US$17 from Amazon
The dangers of the online world are a consistent theme throughout this book - a rather negative viewpoint
but perhaps appropriate for those who are relatively new to the Web. In addition to the author’s near
obsessive interest in ‘cyberstalking’, she covers a wide range of Internet security issues, providing useful descriptions and helpful, pragmatic advice for all.
It is hard to think of any mainstream ‘net crimes and misdemeanors’ that are not included in the book.
Topics included: cyberstalking, phishing and identity theft, 419/advance fee frauds, spam, hacking, malware
(viruses, Trojans and worms), urban legends and hoaxes, eCommerce and online banking, defamation/libel, trolling, online bullying, online auction scams, personal privacy issues, IM (instant messaging), safe surfing for
kids and more. Even child adoption and online dating sites get the same cautious treatment.
Topics not included, at least not in any depth: plagiarism and copyright theft including warez (unauthorized
software copies), pump-n-dump stock scams, illegal drugs, spear-phishing, geolocation, backups, physical security, safe use of cyber cafes.
Thanks to the broad scope, the readership potentially includes all Internet users. The limited technical
content and general style is well suited to non-technical Internet users who have a concern about online security, whether because they have suffered some sort of incident or hopefully because they want to avoid
falling victim. Most mid- to late-teenagers and college students (plus their parents!) would benefit from reading this book, especially those thinking of publishing their inner thoughts on blogs and similar online
The examples presented and advice offered are generally US-centric. It’s a shame that cybersecurity efforts
from Europe and elsewhere are not promoted with the same vigor as US ones - most of them are generally applicable and, of course, not everyone on the Internet speaks English and lives in the ’States.
The author’s ‘vanity’ website presents an interesting paradox since she advises great caution in publishing
personal information online.
Jayne has solid credentials as an author, including of course the previous edition of this book. Although she
does not appear to hold information security qualifications, the book’s limited technical advice cannot be faulted.
Having been cyberstalked herself in 1996, Jayne’s obsession with cyberstalking (including her presidency of a
cyberstalking help group) is understandable but frequent reference to it unbalances and detracts from the book to some extent. On the other hand, it explains her fervor and passion for online security.
Although this is quite a lengthy book, I found it easy and relatively quick to read. In a very welcome contrast
to various Syngress books I have recently reviewed, the grammar, spelling and general writing style are all good. The text is packed with relevant examples, hints and tips, and URLs to additional resources, all of
which are helpful.
Many pages are devoted to brief outlines of techniques to secure common Web browsers, sources of antivirus tools etc., and can therefore be skimmed unless the reader needs advice on their particular
requirements. The main text ends at page 385, being followed by author’s notes, URLs re-listed from the previous chapters, a good glossary and detailed index.
There is a strong element of caution throughout, thankfully never quite overstepping the line into outright
fear and alarm. Given the number of threats Out There, it is no bad thing if naive readers come away feeling
somewhat uneasy about using the Web - better that than the more usual “Hey, the Web is cool! Look at all these cool things you can do on the Web!” beloved of web newbie guides.
Utility & value
As well as Web users in general (see the ‘audience’ heading above), this book would make a good purchase
for an information security manager or security awareness specialist to lend out to fellow employees, colleagues and family members expressing interest in Web security topics. At less than $19 from Amazon (at the time this page was first published), this book is surely worth a close look.