An increasing number of Canadian families have access to Internet. When used with caution, cyberspace is an extraordinary communication and information medium. However, surfing the Net involves certain risks. The Internet is a network of millions of interconnected computers. Unlike a TV set, the computer provides for two-way communication. In other words, when you connect to another computer, not only do you receive information, but you also transmit data!
It is important to understand that today almost any "traditional" crime can be committed with the help of technology. Those who are victims of cybercrimes must understand that they have the same recourse than if the offence had been committed without the use of technology. For example, a death threat made by e-mail or text message must be treated in the same way as a death threat made verbally.
Furthermore, the Internet is a worldwide network that is not yet regulated like radio or television. For instance, what is illegal in Canada can be perfectly legal in another country. However, as Canadian citizens, we have to abide by the laws of our country.
In short, jurisdiction on the Internet is a complex issue. For this reason, the saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” takes its full meaning when you surf the Net.
Here are three basic precautions you should take in order to surf the Net in a more secure manner:
Hacking is the process of gaining unauthorized access to a computer system. There are many ways this can be accomplished, but the three most common are:
A computer virus is a small piece of software that attaches itself to other computer programs. Every time the program is run, the virus is run too, which can cause damage to your system (such as erasing your hard drive). Viruses also replicate when the program is executed, thus spreading to your computer hard drive and other storage media such as USB keys or external hard drives. Sending these executable files by e-mail can also infect other computers.
A worm is a self-replicating program that resides in memory (RAM) and in most cases does not alter files on the hard drive. It propagates by sending itself to other computers in a network. The network could be internal, such as in a company, or it could be the Internet itself. Unlike viruses, a worm is a separate entity, it does not attach itself to other files or programs. One of the ways a worm can spread is by sending itself to everyone in your e-mail program's address book.
Worms, such as Code Red and Code Red II, cause millions of dollars in damage by consuming system resources and overwhelming the Internet. When parts of the Internet go down, millions in revenue are lost. Even ordinary citizens can feel the effects of a worm as it eats up their system's resources and slows down their computer.
A Trojan horse is a malicious computer program that disguises itself by pretending or appearing to be something that is benign. Trojan horses can pretend to be a game or just about any program found as an e-mail attachment. A Trojan horse is an executable file, meaning that when you double click on it, for example, it will run the program. Some possible file extensions for executable files are: exe, bat, pif, com, vbs. Beware of double extensions such as photo.jpg.exe which may appear to be an image file, but instead is an executable program. By default, Windows hides extensions, so this file would appear as "photo.jpg", a popular type of image file.
A Trojan horse, once executed, can destroy files or open up a "backdoor" to your computer, allowing someone to enter and control your system. They can copy and delete files or use your computer as a stepping stone to hack other computers. They can even watch you via your Web cam!
Child pornography is a criminal offence under section 163.1 of the Canadian Criminal Code:
163.1 (1) In this section, "child pornography" means
(a) a photographic, film, video or other visual representation, whether or not it was made by electronic or mechanical means,
(I) that shows a person who is or is depicted as being under the age of eighteen years and is engaged in or is depicted as engaged in explicit sexual activity, or
(ii) the dominant characteristic of which is the depiction, for a sexual purpose, of a sexual organ or the anal region of a person under the age of eighteen years; or
(b) any written material or visual representation that advocates or counsels sexual activity with a person under the age of eighteen years that would be an offence under this Act.
Making, distributing and possessing child pornography are criminal offences. It is important to distinguish this type of pornography with pornographic sites or advertisement. There are thousands of Web sites featuring pornographic advertisement and, although this is a shame, these sites may not be illegal as such.
It is currently not illegal to post instructions on bomb making or other similar criminal acts on the Internet, and in fact, "how to" guides for the manufacture of explosives are readily available in bookstores and public libraries.
The manufacture of any explosive device, apart from being extremely dangerous, is also illegal. Any person caught with such material can be charged under section 82 of the Criminal Code of Canada - “possession of explosive substances” or one of the related sections. Inciting anyone to build or use such a device is also illegal, and the person aiding anyone in the construction or the use of such a device is party to the offence and therefore could be liable to the same charges as the bomb maker.
Intimidation is a criminal offence under section 423(1) of theCanadian Criminal Code:
- 423(1)Everyone is guilty […] who, wrongfully and without lawful authority, for the purpose of compelling another person to abstain from doing anything that he or she has a lawful right to do, or to do anything that he or she has a lawful right to abstain from doing
- (a) uses violence or threats of violence to that person or his or her spouse or common-law partner or children, or injures his or her property;
- (b) intimidates or attempts to intimidate that person or a relative of that person by threats that, in Canada or elsewhere, violence or other injury will be done to or punishment inflicted on him or her or a relative of his or hers, or that the property of any of them will be damaged;
- (c) persistently follows that person;
- (d) hides any tools, clothes or other property owned or used by that person, or deprives him or her of them or hinders him or her in the use of them;
- (e) with one or more other persons, follows that person, in a disorderly manner, on a highway;
- (f) besets or watches the place where that person resides, works, carries on business or happens to be; or
- (g) blocks or obstructs a highway.
- (2) A person who attends at or near or approaches a dwelling-house or place, for the purpose only of obtaining or communicating information, does not watch or beset within the meaning of this section.
Cyberbullying is a growing phenomenon. Internet, with all the services it offers, is a great communication tool. It allows us to communicate through e-mail, Web site, test messages, chat rooms, social networks and discussion forums. However, some people make inappropriate use of these tools. While the Canadian Criminal Code does not include a specific section on cyberbullying, section 423(1) will apply since it encompasses all means, including the Internet, that can be used for intimidation purposes. In short, the advent of technology allows bullies to remain anonymous so they can act as they please. This phenomenon is growing and has devastating consequences for the victims. Cyberbullying can result in a loss of self-esteem and isolation. Worse, it can lead to depression and, in some cases, to suicide.
People sometimes refer to criminal harassment and other similar types of behavior as online predators, child predators, harassment or criminal harassment. For our purposes we will refer to this type of behavior in an online criminal harassment. Online criminal harassment generally refers to the use of repeated electronic communications to cause another person to feel like they or a member of their family is being threatened. The legal definition of harassment, according to Black's Law Dictionary, is:
"A course of conduct directed at a specific person that causes substantial emotional distress in such person and serves no legitimate purpose" or "Words, gestures, and actions which tend to annoy, alarm and abuse (verbally) another person."
The Canadian Criminal Code section that applies to cyber stalking is section 264(1) criminal harassment, and would in most cases be the mandate of the local police force in your city or town to enforce.
264(1) Criminal harassment - No person shall, without lawful authority and knowing that another person is harassed or recklessly as to whether the other person is harassed, engage in conduct referred to in subsection (2) that causes that other person reasonably, in all the circumstances, to fear for their safety or the safety of anyone known to them.
(2) The conduct mentioned in subsection (1) consists of
(a) Repeatedly following from place to place the other person or anyone known to them;
(b) Repeatedly communicating with, either directly or indirectly, the other person or anyone known to them;
(c) Besetting or watching the dwelling-house, or place where the other person, or anyone known to them, resides, works, carries on business or happens to be; or
(d) Engaging in threatening conduct directed at the other person or any member of their family.
Identity theft means deliberately assuming someone’s identity, without his/her consent, generally for the purpose of committing fraud. The applicable sections of the Canadian Criminal Code are:
The advent of technology has made it increasingly easy to access and find personal information on the Net. Social networks are a good example of this. Access, communication and use of your personnel information on the Internet are protected by the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. However, not everyone takes the necessary precautions to protect their personal information. The multitude of search tools developed over the years could certainly help ill-intentioned individuals to find other information about you. For example, with your name, it is possible to find your e-mail, address and phone number depending on your level of activity online. This could make those who give too much information in their social network account more vulnerable. Often, this type of information will allow an ill-intentioned individual to order and use a credit card under your name. Among the information used to steal your identity are:
E-commerce is a growing business. For instance, many Internet sites offer to sell or buy products and services. However, a number of Internet users are defrauded by people who take their money without sending the goods that have been paid for. In 2002 alone, the FBI’s Internet Fraud Complaint Center (IFCC) referred some 50,000 complaints for fraud to police agencies having jurisdiction. Many of the complaints dealt with fraud through online auction sites.
Some companies on the Internet will send the goods, but these are poor quality or even counterfeit. Online medications, such as Viagra, are an example of this. Sometimes the pills contain only sugar or they may contain chemical substances that are harmful to health. For these reasons, if you develop a health problem, you should see a doctor as quickly as possible to get the prescription you need.
Fraud letters from Nigeria (and other African countries) is a type of scam that has been around for a number of years. Businesses, educational institutions and government departments were originally the prime targets of electronic messages bearing the promise of substantial amounts of money from alleged government or company officials in Nigeria. The general public is now also targeted, and thousands of people like you receive similar e-mail messages in their personal mail boxes. In some cases, con artists even send stolen or forged cheques to their victims. This scam can also be done by phone and from many countries. In addition to money you can be asked for confidential information against the promise of profits.
The pyramid scheme is a business opportunity whose main focus is on recruiting an increasing number of investors. A pyramid can appear similar to an MLM (Multilevel Marketing), which is where a company recruits people to sell their products and, if these new salespeople recruit more salespeople, they will get a percentage of their sales. MLMs are legal in Canada, whereas pyramids are not. The pyramid scheme focuses on getting money from the recruits not selling products, which is what differentiates them from an MLM. With a pyramid, recruits will be required to invest large sums of money (e.g. inventory fees) up front, whereas an MLM will never have large start-up costs. MLM profits are based on product sales, not recruit investment fees.
Inevitably, all pyramids will collapse which means that all the people who invested last lose their money. So beware! Be careful if you are contacted (by phone or e-mail) to ask you to invest in a business and advise you to recruit people to have them invest as well.
Some people have received large long distance telephone bills to exotic locations which they don't recall making. Upon receiving the bill, these people realize that they were surfing the Internet at the time of these telephone calls. They don't understand how their computer could have made a long distance phone call when it was connected to their local Internet Service Provider. This issue, which occurs strictly with entertainment Web sites (mostly adult entertainment sites, but also sites involving gambling, psychic services and travel deals), is becoming more and more problematic due in large part to the fact that one does not realize what is happening until it is too late.
Some entertainment Web sites include a link that you have to click on if you wish to continue viewing the site. By clicking the link, your computer downloads a program that alters your Internet dial-up properties so that instead of calling your local ISP (Internet Service Provider), you connect to an ISP located far away (like Africa for example), thus incurring expensive long distance charges. Since you reconnect to an ISP in Africa, you continue surfing the Net as you normally would. Usually, the victim has to accept a disclaimer or licence agreement before the program is installed. The disclaimer can be a part of the downloaded program or part of the Web site you were visiting. Most people, however, don't bother reading the fine print and agree to pay the costs without realizing the ramifications of their actions.
Who profits from this dubious activity? The answer is not a simple one. This is how it works: the owner of an entertainment Web site sets up an ISP in Africa. He then makes a deal with a local African telephone company to receive a percentage of the profits for connecting the calls to their ISP telephone number. Upon receipt of the telephone bill, the victim is obliged to pay the local telephone provider the total amount because the victim accepted the disclaimer agreement, whether knowingly or not.
This problem mainly affects Internet users with dial-up connections. However, users with high-speed connections can be vulnerable as well. There have been cases where suspicious web sites have asked people to dial a long distance phone number to obtain a password which will allow them to continue viewing the site. They ask the victim to not hang up the phone until they are done viewing the site or else the Internet connection will be cut. Beware that as long as your phone is connected to this long distance number, you will incur long distance charges on your phone bill. Calls to some countries can cost several dollars per minute regardless of your long distance phone plan.
For more information on this type of fraud, please visit the Web site of the Union des consommateurs (French only).
The massive distribution of unsolicited messages by people or companies is a technique known as “spam” or “spamming”. Most of the time, these messages have an advertisement or pornographic content. To obtain lists of electronic addresses these people or companies consult newsgroups, purchase e-mail lists, and surf the Net.
Even though this technique is deplorable, it is not illegal as such and it is extremely difficult to control. However, you can take some basic precautions to cut down on the number of spams you receive and, at the same time, on phishing attempts.
Phishing is the process of sending spam messages, the content of which appears to come from a legitimate institution and asks you to provide your personal account information. Of course, it’s a scam.
Therefore, beware of all e-mail messages pretending to be from your bank, paypal or e-Bay accounts. Cases have been reported where individuals have received e-mail from what appeared to be their bank asking them to click on a link included in the message. The content of the message stated that by clicking on the link you would be directed to the bank’s home page, where you could log onto your on-line banking account, thus allowing the bank to confirm your e-mail address, or to participate in a contest. If you click on the link, you are brought to a web site that appears to be your bank’s web site, but it is not. When you enter your personal information such as your debit card number and password, this information is immediately sent to the perpetrators of this fraud. Canadian banks do not send e-mail to customers requesting them to provide account information.
Spyware is software that gathers information about people without their knowledge. Generally speaking, it tracks your movements and habits on the Web and sends the information to advertising companies. They use the information to create marketing profiles thus helping them to market their products better. Spyware is sometimes included in free software (also known as shareware) that is downloaded from the Internet. Often there are long licence agreements (which few people read) stating that you agree to the software gathering information about your habits and sending it back to the company's Web site. Spyware can also find its way onto your computer via a virus.
Cookies also gather personal information about a user, but they are not considered spyware because they are not hidden. Users can disallow cookies at any time if they choose to do so.
The use of spyware is common practice in informatics. Even though this practice is not highly appreciated, it is not illegal and software manufacturers do not, as a rule, have criminal intent. We suggest that you contact the manufacturer to express your apprehension and comments. If you are not satisfied with the manufacturer’s reply, you still have the option to not use the software. There still are basic precautions that you can take to avoid that your computer become infected by spyware. This will also reduce the number of pop-up ads you receive.
Pop-up ads are those small windows containing advertisements that literally pop up during your Internet sessions. In some cases, closing the window results in the repeated opening of one or more advertisement boxes. These boxes often are generated when you are surfing a commercial site, but they can also be launched by spyware.
As a rule, these windows are perfectly harmless. However, most Web users find them annoying because they hamper their Web sessions. It is possible to reduce and even to eliminate these pop-up ads.
Cookies are generally harmless pieces of information generated by a Web server and stored in the requesting user's computer. Cookies are stored to speed future access to the site making use of user-specific information transmitted to the Web to personalize a user's Web page. The storage and access of the cookies by servers are automatic and therefore generally unnoticed whenever a user requests a Web page.
The information contained in a cookie is text containing the user's preferences. The cookies are generally stored in a cookie folder by the browser so that they can be called up by the Web server whenever the user returns to the site.
Cookies are not a danger to your computer, they are information your Web browser uses to access Web sites. Cookies may, however, pose a threat to your privacy as they store your preferences and are accessible by all Web servers.
The Internet is an extraordinary source of information and entertainment. Unfortunately, it also involves very real risks. Generally speaking, these risks are the same for grownups as for children but the latter are much more vulnerable.
In general terms, child luring through the Internet could be defined as adults aged 18 and more who attempt, through the Internet, to contact minors for the purpose of inciting them to have sexual contacts. Section 172.1 of the Canadian Criminal Code (Luring) is associated to this offence:
172.1(1) Every person commits an offence who, by means of a computer system within the meaning of subsection 342.1(2), communicates with
(a) a person who is, or who the accused believes is, under the age of eighteen years, for the purpose of facilitating the commission of an offence under subsection 153(1), section 155 or 163.1, subsection 212(1) or (4) or section 271, 272 or 273 with respect to that person;
(b) a person who is, or who the accused believes is, under the age of 16 years, for the purpose of facilitating the commission of an offence under section 151 or 152, subsection 160(3) or 173(2) or section 280 with respect to that person; or
(c) a person who is, or who the accused believes is, under the age of 14 years, for the purpose of facilitating the commission of an offence under section 281 with respect to that person.
There are many ways to lure minors through the Internet. More particularly in chat rooms, nothing is easier than to pretend to be someone else. Some people take advantage of the relative anonymity offered by the Net to lie about their age, sex, occupation and... intentions. For instance, sexual predators and pedophiles regularly participate in chat room discussions to find their victims. Ripoff artists are also very common. In the last few years, social networks have become very important in the lives of youth. As with discussion forums, we have to be careful about the information we disclose. Youth may not always understand the consequences of their actions and the information disclosed may make it easier for predators to manipulate minors.
1) Unless you have your parents' or a teacher's permission:
2) If you feel in danger or uncomfortable on a chat, e-mail or web site, log off the Internet right away and tell your parents or a teacher about it.
3) Never arrange a meeting with an acquaintance made on the Internet unless one of your parents will be present.
4) When participating in chats, newsgroups and forums, always use a nickname that does not reveal anything about you.
5) Never open e-mails, links, pictures or games if you do not know the source. If in doubt, ask an adult first.
6) Never make a purchase online without your parents' permission.