Saturday, 02 May 2009

The negative side of the Internet

The Internet has helped to transform the world into a global village. Communication with friends and family across the globe has become fast and free. It is easy to keep in touch with programs such as Skype and Face book. Online dating provides unprecedented opportunities for people to meet. The Internet is an excellent source of information, unparalleled in history. But the Internet has a darker, more sinister side. It is as easy for criminals to use the Internet for their own evil ends as it is for you. The world's law enforcement agencies have a tough job tracing, catching and preventing stop Internet scammers, identity thieves and paedophiles from operating. This is the negative side of the Internet.

The Internet provides the ability for anyone, anywhere to access any type of site or material. Terrorists and other extremist groups use the Internet to publish sinister propaganda and disinformation. Vulnerable people and especially young children can be influenced by these sites.

Disinformation is a common Internet disease. Almost anyone can set up a web-site and post articles or news that is inaccurate or simply wrong. A seemingly respectable site can publish information that is without any basis. Disinformation occurs in all fields, but can be quite dangerous in the fields of medicine, science and politics where unqualified individuals post seemingly authoritative articles full of disinformation.

Social networking has taken off in a big way over the last few years. The most well known if these is Face book. Most young people and increasing numbers of older people maintain a Face book presence. Here they post all sorts of personal information about their personal lives, their friends and families. Photographs and other visual information is provided as well. This is a wonderful way to keep in touch with all the social news and events in your and your friends' lives. The danger begins when strangers begin to maintain a presence on your profile. They befriend young people and gain their trust. Young people may be enticed to meet others whose intentions are anything but honourable. There have been cases of identity theft based on Face book profiles. Use these sites with care!

Pornography including child pornography is widely available. One visit to a porn site results in endless spamming by these sites. Paedophile rings use the Internet to plan child abductions and to let each other know the whereabouts of child-pornography on the Web.

On-line gambling sites seeking out compulsive gamblers are available at every turn. Most of these on-line gambling sites are totally unregulated. They operate offshore or from a location where there are few controls. The games can easily be rigged. These sites draw in people looking for the excitement of gambling and the hope of winning. Many of the players become compulsive or pathological gamblers in a short space of time and the extremely profitable gambling sites have an easy source of revenue.

On-line crime is more widespread than most people realise. One of the methods involves using viruses or spyware such as Trojans to steal personal information from your computer and pass it on to credit card and other fraudsters. Always ensure that you use a firewall and good anti-virus and anti-spyware protection to prevent theft from your computer.

There are a whole range of on-line scams available on the Internet. Many of these pose as get rich quick schemes. For a small fee you could be earning millions within a few weeks!

Then there are dating site scams. Criminals post false profiles with photographs of beautiful young girls keen to travel to meet you. After two emails they are ready to drop everything and travel to marry. But they don't have the money to do it. $10,000 will do the trick. Once you have paid, both the money and the girl disappear forever.

Then there are the phishing schemes. Fraudsters replicate sites such as PayPal or Citi Bank. An email arrives in your in-box informing you that your password has expired and must be renewed to prevent your details from being destroyed. The link on the email directs the victim to the scammer's site to update their personal information and password. The site is a perfect replica of the real thing. But one look at the url provides the best clue that this is a scam.

The so-called 419 scams have become quite common. In these there is usually a large sum of money tied up in a bank account in an African country. Your help is required to get the money out and of course you will be the lucky recipient of millions of US dollars. You are required to pay a facilitation fee for the money to be transferred. Many pay the fee and wait.

Obsessional use of the Internet can become a real problem for some people. Cases have been reported where Internet addiction is so bad that parents are left to die while the son obsessively played his Internet game.

As with all aspects of life, moderation is key. Common sense is one of the best defences against scammers and Internet crime. Good anti-virus and anti-spyware protection is essential. Children should be encouraged to play outdoors rather than spending all their time on the Web! Used wisely and with caution, the Internet can provide great benefits.

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