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Monday, October 25, 2010

Net crime and censorship

Cybercrime is going full tilt, ruining the internet. The criminals may also ruin text-messaging, as we see from this story:

I try to be fairly careful and yet I got ripped off by a texting scam a month or so ago. I had been using a free directory assistance number, which sent me text ads for outfits like Walmart. No problem. Then I got a text ad for what I took to be a free ring tone (I must have taken my dumb pill that day because normally the word  free is a red flag for me). What I didn't know when I hit the OK option, was that lower in the message, the terms clearly said I would be charged $10 a month on my phone bill for something I didn't want. Why didn't I read down? Because the text message -- unlike the ones I'm used to -- had extra spaces between paragraphs (whoever heard of a paragraph on a text message?). So I didn't know to scroll down and I fell right into the trap. I hit the "stop" option a few days later, once I'd figured out what was going on.

For the record, here's the text:

"Reply YES to 71769& get ur complimentary ringtone!send YES to 71769!"

That's all I saw. Then came the response:

"UR subscribed 2 Hit SongPIN:1285 for 6 CR $9.99/mo Msg&data rates may apply. Reply cxl stop."

Ouch. So I sent "stop" to the number and that worked. Back came a message saying I would receive "no more" charges. Hence, they zapped me for 10 bucks. Trying to straighten the matter out with AT&T would have cost me $5 for talking to a human being at AT&T (the last I looked). Wasn't worth the bother.

Later, I discovered the remainder of the initial text message, which included these words: "Hit Song@$9.99/mo/2ur FoneBill.cxl stop"

This sneaky skim may not have been illegal, but it's the sort of thing that gives the new communications media a bad odor. 

The FBI has its hands full with cybercrime. 

And spookdom is likewise hopping. 

Tajikistan: ISP's blocking access.

Crime and spook issues of course imply the likelihood of political control. Sure, the United States is no Tajikistan or South Korea. But the "system" that presumes to run things in this country is always looking for excuses to rope in unwelcome news and discussion. Now they must censor pretty much on the sly. Think how much easier it will be for them with laws to "fight cybercrime."

I'm not saying there is a simple solution. Other than, perhaps, to drastically curtail use of the internet (especially such privacy-challenged sites as Facebook) and even to beware texting.

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