Net Crimes & Misdemeanors: Outmaneuvering Web Spammers, Stalkers, and Con Artists - J. A. Hitchcock,  Loraine Page (Editor),  Foreword by Vinton Cerf
It began with a simple post to a popular USENET group. Author JA Hitchcock, having uncovered a dubious operation in the guise of a literary agency, posted a warning to aspiring writers not to send reading fees to the organization. Mixed in with various thank-yous from writers came a barrage of harassing e-mails designed to shut down her mailbox. Filters and a change of address managed to ciphon the flow, but Hitchcock was hardly prepared for the mysterious phone calls and unwanted mail that followed.

Further investigaton revealed that somebody was posting Hitchcock's address and phone number on the Internet AS Hitchcock, particularly in sex fetish newsgroups and message boards, in addition to ordering magazines and merchandise on her behalf. From one simple warning on the Internet, Hitchcock became a victim of Internet harassment, a harassment so intense that Hitchcock and her family moved and bought a gun. Pleas for help went intially unheard, for there were no laws at the time against electronic harassment. So Hitchcock shifted her focus from writing to see that such laws were passed.

One could say Hitchcock's story ends happily. Following numerous national television appearances and working with law enforcement for the purpose of Internet education, Hitchcock saw legislation pass in her home state and others outlawing Internet harassment. Those involved in Woodside were apprehended and charged for their crimes, and Hitchcock has since been able to return to a normal life and continue her writing career.

One could also say, however, the Hitchcock's story is not over. In 1999 she became the president of Working to Prevent Online Abuse (WHOA), a volunteer-driven advocacy group for victims of online harassment which has helped bring such abuses to the forefront of national conciousness. NET CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS was born from Hitchcock's contributions to this cause, and is essential reading for anybody concerned about maintaining online privacy in an age where con artists, stalkers and the like now search for targets on their computer screens.

NET CRIMES is easy to read and offers simplified explanations for the most amateur Internet user. Those unfamiliar with mail headers and PGP keys will benefit from Hitchcock's experience as they learn which measures to take when protecting themselves online. In NET CRIMES, Hitchcock covers many bases under the online harassment umbrella. Case studies of victims plagued by e-mail, chat, and instant messanger harassment illustrate the diversity of this problem (men as well as women can be victims, and harassment no know race or creed), possible causes and escalation, and steps to resolution. Hitchcock stresses despite the opportunities available for stalkers to use the Internet anonymously, apprehension is always a possibility. It's only a matter of knowing where to look on the Internet and how to get the information, steps which are explained in great detail.

NET CRIMES is not just for the person concerned about receiving nasty e-mail messages. Auction fraud and identity theft are touched upon here, as is information on protecting home computers from hacking attempts (it is more common than you think, Hitchcock reveals). Surveys of virus software and firewall programs offer the reader further opportunity to be educated on online safety, particularly for young Internet users, and a detailed appendix which is updated online at is available with more invaluable information.

Despite the forboding title and cover art of NET CRIMES, Hitchcock's manner in presenting her case and information in no way implies that people should not use the Internet. As with any invaluable resource, the Internet can be used for good and bad purposes, and Hitchcock's achieves her goal with NET CRIMES in helping people surf safely and avoid bumps on the Information Superhighway that might otherwise dissuade a novice user from turning on his computer again.