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Workshop teaches how to avoid cybercrime

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To catch a cybercriminal who was using a computer in his 60-year-old uncle's home, an investigation started in Washington, moved to California, then Austria and finally to Iowa.

His crime was stealing credit card numbers from those who fell for his spam e-mail sent to about 200 million Internet users.

The crime resulted in one of more than 130 lawsuits filed by Microsoft in recent years — the judgment was for $3 million.

"It takes collaboration," said Craig Spiezle, director of Technology Care & Safety for Microsoft. "We're very fortunate to be getting more and more of that every day."

Spiezle collaborated Tuesday in Salt Lake City with Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and other industry experts at a "Take Back the Net" workshop on how the public can protect themselves against a growing number of Web-related crimes.

The crimes include identity theft, spamming, "phishing" attacks, child pornography, soliciting sex from minors and the spread of viruses or worms.

Calvin Close is a newly called bishop for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His predecessor told him that Internet pornography will be one of the things he will deal with the most.

"I thought this would be something I would want to learn about more," Close said before the workshop.

Male teens, he added, seem to be admitting the most to viewing Internet pornography.

According to the group Crimes Against Children Research Center, the average age of a person's first Internet porn experience is 11, while one in five teens who regularly log on to the Internet have been solicited for sex.

Jack Sunderlage, chairman of Utah Information Technology Association, cited figures that show how the porn industry draws $57 billion in revenue, more than the combined earnings of ABC, CBS and NBC.

As of 2004, there were around eight billion Web pages devoted to porn, and in 2001 at least 125 million Internet sites were deemed pornographic, according to figures Sunderlage recalled.

"We hope you'll take action to protect yourselves," Sunderlage told about 50 people at the workshop.

As the battle in cyberspace rages on, different weapons are emerging.

Sunderlage, for example, is also president of the company ContentWatch, which specializes in software that helps filter unwanted material before it reaches someone's computer screen.

Spiezle added that "phishing" attacks — legitimate-looking e-mails with Internet links to illegal activity — can be prevented by downloading software from addins.msn.com/phishingfilter.

On the low-tech side, Close, who admittedly is not tech savvy, said he helps protect his five children by having only one computer, which is centrally located in the home for a purposeful lack of privacy.

So, is the public winning in the fight against cybercrimes?

"It's ongoing," said Eric Langheinrich, co-founder of Unspam, which focuses its efforts on helping governments create and implement laws to control unsolicited e-mail.

Langheinrich figured out quickly he needed a content filter in his own home when his 10-year-old was playing games online and was being exposed to explicit language.

On many levels, avoiding or catching Internet criminals is like a game of cat and mouse.

Shurtleff talked about how his cats like to prey on mice and how a computer's mouse should be a constant reminder that Internet users are potential prey for technologically superior criminals.

To further illustrate his point, Shurtleff held up a metal trap, which snapped shut, breaking a pencil in two. The pencil, of course, was the Internet user and the trap was a criminal or porn site that is as close as a mouse click away.

"Anybody want to come up here and double click on this?" he asked.

No one replied.


E-mail: sspeckman@desnews.com