Cyber crimes are now a fact of life in law enforcement. With the rapid explosion of the Internet, criminals now have the opportunity to make cyberspace their virtual crime playground. The Internet offers criminals anonymity, fingertip access to almost any information on their victims, not to mention a plethora of faceless prey they may never have been able to reach in the offline world. With the cyber world continuing its rapid growth and as we as a society continue to expose more of ourselves in cyberspace, it is important that we educate ourselves on what predators may lay in wait in the virtual world and what we can do to protect ourselves on a daily basis. The book Cyber Crime Fighters: Tales from the Trenches by Felicia Donovan and Kristyn Bernier addresses just such issues.
Cyber Crime Fighters: Tales from the Trenches is a comprehensive text that takes the reader from a very basic starting point of understanding current cyber issues and crimes that are being dealt with by law enforcement today. The book gives a general overview and then devotes each chapter to an in depth, but understandable explanation of a specific cyber crime and adds in real life example cases and their outcomes to make it more real to the reader. Chapters in the book include cyber stalking, identity theft, online dating and peer to peer networking sites, child pornography and pedophilia, crimes on camera (web cams) and a variety of online scams and the audience they target. The authors’ also include chapters on who is online, online tracking and devices, how to do home computer safety checkups and where the future is going for cyber crimes and law enforcement. In the concluding chapters, the authors’ give some of their suggestions based on their experience on what changes law enforcement may be able to make in the future to combat cyber crimes.
As the title of the book suggests, the authors’ take the reader into the cyber trenches with both detailed factual information and true-life case examples and their outcomes. The authors’ deal with online safety focusing on daily use and in a way that can benefit single adults, parents, children and educators.
One consistent focus throughout the book is that of Internet safety and protection. From the simplest explanation of what cookies are, their importance and potential danger and how to delete them, the authors’ continue to show the reader small daily steps that can help prevent them from being a cyber victim. The authors’ stress the importance of simply shutting down your computer each night thereby not leaving your network connection open to hackers who stalk their prey at night. For parents, there are suggestions including centrally locating a child’s computer so the child can be seen when online, child safety setups for websites the child should not be on, reviewing site history and most important, having open communication with children to explain the dangers of the Internet. Included in the first several chapters are various ways to make all efforts to avoid being the victim of a cyber stalker. There is a chapter on signs to look for to see if there is a possibility that a computer has been hacked or compromised in some way. The authors’ knowledge of Internet safety and preventive measures are extensive and go from obscure details an individual may not think of (or know) to the more obvious measures such as using anti-virus software programs as protection.
The authors’ do an excellent job of mixing technical and legal details with real life case examples. This tactic manages to keep the reader engaged, but does not lose the reader in dry confusing technical jargon. While many of the cases the reader may have encountered in the media, there are many more that show examples of average unsuspecting adults, parents and children who unwittingly became victims of cyber crimes. It is these “average” cases that express to the reader that no one is safe from being the victim of a cyber crime.
The authors’ are also able to take what can be a very technically detailed area of law enforcement and make it simple for the reader to understand. Any legal terms or technical jargon used is thoroughly explained so the reader is never at a loss to understand the subject matter and does not need to stop periodically to look for technical definitions outside the pages of the book.
Cyber Crime Fighters: Tales from the Trenches maintains several strengths, however, it does possess some weaknesses. While the detailed writing can be a benefit to the reader, there are some instances where the details are so exactly written that it would without a doubt benefit a criminal. In some instances the detail into how to cyber stalk, how to hack computers, organizations and information on child pornography are simply too in depth –in some instances with directions to websites and contact information in references at the end of the chapters. While not everyone is a criminal, an individual with a curiosity and a nature leaning toward the deviant would find these types of details both insightful and beneficial in their journey into crime.
While the writing is done at a level even the less technologically inclined can understand, it is also this factor that at certain points in the text lets the reader sense the frustrated tone toward law enforcement and their involvement (or lack of) in cyber crime. There are points, for example when discussing cyber stalking, that the reader can feel the frustration of lack of laws, difficulty in pursuing predators and the often referenced lack of manpower, funding and cooperation among agencies. It is at these points in the book where the reader is left with a sense of hopelessness in the prosecution of these crimes. This negative tone may lead the reader to think (and feel) that should they fall victim to a cyber crime they will have little help from law enforcement. This tone does not lend a positive overall feeling to the text and seems a little more personally interjected than the authors’ may want in future writings.
Cyber Crime Fighters: Tales from the Trenches is an informative and engaging book that can benefit various audiences. With its simple yet informative manner, parents with little technological background should want to read this book to understand the dangers their children may encounter on the Internet, but also the precautions they as parents can take to prevent their children becoming cyber prey. The book’s content is also easy enough to do exactly what the authors’ suggest: begin an open discussion and communication with children about their activities online.
This is a book that may also benefit an educator teaching middle school or adult computer classes (Note: Some cases and detailed technological information may be too in depth for an elementary or younger child). The safety hints and suggestions alone would benefit any computer newbie and start their online experience in a safe rather than a risky and exposed manner.
Cyber Crime Fighters: Tales from the Trenches is overall a strong text that covers a wide variety of subjects in relation to cyber crime. The book can benefit newcomers to the Internet and seasoned veterans who are looking to understand and prevent themselves being victims of a cyber crime. Perhaps the one area to watch is the sometimes interjected frustrated tones from the authors’ in regard to law enforcement. Despite the few weaknesses of the book, the authors’ have assembled a strong text that both touches on the problems and preventions for today and includes predictions for the future in the virtual world of cyber crime. And for those readers that are avid crime show junkies, the authors’ conclude with a fun to read, yet informative chapter comparing what is seen on TV crimes shows and how it works in real life.
The authors’ of Cyber Crime Fighters: Tales from the Trenches, Felecia Donovan and Kristyn Bernier have combined over 25 years experience in law enforcement and cyber crime expertise. Both have extensive cyber crime experience working with Internet crimes against children.
Felicia Donovan frequently lectures on cyber crimes and online safety issues. The FBI has recognized Felicia for her work in computer forensics and enhancing digital images of child victims of pedophiles. Felicia is an author and has been featured in several articles including those of Law Enforcement Technology Magazine. She is an active member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, New Hampshire Police Association, Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America. Felicia is currently the Information Systems Manager at a New England based police department and she has also been a victim of identity theft.
Kristyn Bernier is currently a detective with a New England based police department specializing in undercover Internet crimes and special investigations. She has received recognition from the New Hampshire Department of Justice for her work as an investigator with the Northern New England Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. Kristyn is a certified crisis negotiator and a member of the Sex Offender Monitoring and Tracking committee. Kristyn continues to address legislative sessions to modify and strengthen sex predator laws as well as educating the public regarding online safety for parents, children and educators.
Donovan, Felicia, and Bernier, Kristyn. CyberCrimeFighters: Tales from the trenches. Indianapolis: Que Printing, 2008.