M. E. Kabay, PhD, CISSP-ISSMP
Professor of Computer Information Systems
Norwich University, Northfield, VT
This is another in a continuing series devoted to how ordinary
people can protect themselves when using the Internet..
Pornography — even with the most restrictive definitions — is widespread on
the Internet. Some studies of Internet traffic have claimed that more than
half of the total bandwidth (capacity) is used for transfer of pornography or
solicitations for purchase of pornography.
Pornographers use various tricks to get people onto their Web sites. Some smut-peddlers
have purchased licenses to domain names that are strikingly similar to the names
of high-interest sites; examples include
- using a different domain, like "whitehouse.com"
to take advantage of interest in "whitehouse.gov;"
- misspellings, such as the now-inactive "micosoft.com"
which traded on the likelihood of mistyping "Microsoft.com;"
- junk e-mail invitations with labels for URLs that don't match
the actual link;
- padding porn-site metatags (normally invisible text used to
describe a Web site) with inoffensive keywords that can appeal to children;
- disabling normal features of a browser to trap victims in
the porn site. One villain who was shut down by the FTC even ran Java applets
that disabled the "back" arrow in browsers and deleted the ability
to close the browsers. People trapped in porno-hell had to reboot their computers
to get out.
Porn sites are notorious for using deceit to defraud their victims. One widely-used
scam is to demand a credit-card number from a visitor as "proof" (it
is nothing of the sort) of their age, then to charge the card even though the
site clearly states that there is a period of free use.
In 1996, viewers of pornographic pictures on the sexygirls.com site were in
for a surprise when they got their next phone bills. Victims who downloaded
a "special viewer" were actually installing a program that silently
switched their Internet access to a number in Moldova in central Europe. Some
victims who stayed online for a long time paid more than a thousand dollars
in long-distance charges.
Place your young kids' Internet-access computers in a family area of the
home rather than in the kids' bedrooms.
Interact with your children while they are using the Internet;
treat the Web browser like a window on the world and help your kids interpret
that world in a way consistent with your values.
Talk with your kids about the existence and nature of pornography;
as they reach puberty, explain that pornography is not a healthy way of learning
about wholesome, loving relations.
Warn your kids about some of the tricks used by pornographers
to get traffic on their Web sites such as telling them to download special readers.
Tell them about the Moldovan porn scam.
Discuss junk e-mail that advertises porn sites. Warn kids that
no one should ever click on a URL (address) from any kind of junk e-mail because
it can easily be a trick to get them into dangerous territory.
Teach your children to keep an eye on the actual URL that appears
in the browser window; any discrepancy between the visible URL shown on a page
and the actual URL should alert one to the possibility of fraud.
Explain to kids that pornographers sometimes charge for access
to their sites without permission; be sure your kids understand how dangerous
it would be to give your credit card number to these people for any reason.