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The Internet's Dirty Little Secret

Two weeks ago a paedophile chatroom that used to broadcast child sex abuse - live over the Internet - was busted in a global sting Worldwide, 27 people were charged in connection with their activities in the Kiddypics and Kiddyvids chatroom, which included the trading of thousands of child pornography pictures. Of all the bad things that happen online, child pornography is possibly the worst - and one of the least studied.

Is it because child pornography is a sordid subject that most people shy away from? Or is it because organised crime has been quicker to exploit technology than the law has to combat the illicit uptake? To be sure, the Internet industry has won a dubious crown: it has transformed child pornography from a back-alley fetish into a US$20 million ($32.4 million) industry pandering to any paedophile with an Internet connection.

Going by an old 2002 study by child safety organisation End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes (ECPAT) International and the Bangkok Post, there are more than 100,000 child pornography websites. The United Kingdom's National Criminal Intelligence Service estimated that child pornography websites doubled in 2003 - the numbers become a blur after a while.

What is clear is that every minute, these sites stream high-quality videos and display high-resolution images to a hungry audience lapping up a buffet of sin, previously unavailable. Many of these slick operations are run by wily, tech-smart businessmen who hide their real identities behind the best infocomm security systems money can buy, and pick up the pay offs via secure e-commerce channels.

And they know how to get past rather primitive cyber-crime laws too. So far, the good guys have been using the Internet primarily as an educational and reporting tool. Organisations like the United States' National Center for Missing and Exploited Children operate "cyber tiplines" where people can submit links to child pornography sites.

Volunteer sites like PedoWatch operate amateur databases of known online paedophiles. It was only recently that a more significant cooperative effort appeared, with 17 financial institutions including credit card companies and international banks, linking up to combat online child porn. The thinking is: cut off the money, and the motivation to do the evil will also go away.

This has promise, but even if it works, sites run by individuals, for other like-minded individuals, will still exist. To root these out, cyber-laws around the world must be in sync, well-understood, and well-enforced by tech-savvy law enforcement officials. A gargantuan task, of course, but the moves towards global coordination must begin.

If any of the pieces are missing, the whole will fail - no point sending the IP address or bank accounts of operators of a child porn website if law enforcers in the country cannot follow through on the digital trail. Only when the Internet no longer provides dark corners for depraved minds to hide will the issue be brought under control.

Bandwidth Thieves Can Be Traced

Unknown to many bandwidth thieves, they cannot remain invisible on a wireless network. Anyone who steals the wireless connection of others can be detected by the authorities during an investigation. For example, he can be traced via the MAC address of his network card. As for users who do not protect their wireless connection, it is like leaving the door of their house open, making them vulnerable to theft.

So How Do I Stop Bandwidth Theft?

Here Are Some Wireless Security Tips

Stop Broadcasting The Existence Of Your Wireless Network

All Wifi networks need to have a name, otherwise known as the Service Set Identifier (SSID). Examples are "Linksys", "Motorola' or the brand name of the wireless router. You should always change the SSID name from the default one, and then disallow the router from shouting to the world the SSID name.

Change The Router Password

Hackers can lock you out of your own WiFi network! Most wireless routers require a password like 'admin' in order to change the security settings. If you do not change this password, hackers can take over your WiFi access easily.

Scramble The Signals

WiFi routers come with the ability to scramble (or encrypt) the wireless .signals over the air. You can choose to use encryption methods like Wired Equivalency Protocol (WEP) and WiFi Protected Access CWPA). The latter is the more powerful encryption method.

Check The MACS

A cumbersome but effective method of locking down your WiFi network is to restrict access to specific devices. All WiFi devices (laptops, some PDAs, high-end handphones) have a Media Access Control (MAC) number which is unique. Once you specify which MAC addresses are allowed to access the network, all other devices will be locked out.


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