Crime Online

Nate Anderson, deputy editor of Ars Technica and the author of The Internet Police: How Crime Went Online, and the Cops Followed (W.W. Norton & Co., 2013), looks at specific cases of online crime and what they demonstrate about the contradictions of easier access to anonymity and surveillance.


Excerpt: The Internet Police


. . .“Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind,” declared John Perry Barlow in his infamous 1996 manifesto, A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace. “On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.”

Barlow was a Wyoming rancher, a sometime-lyricist for the Grateful Dead, and a passionate defender of early online communities like the Whole Earth ’Lectronic Link (WELL). He helped to launch the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a pioneering digital rights group still prominent and effective today. His declaration was an over-the-top howl of dissent against US government actions regarding the Internet—but the delightful bombast staked out quite a serious position, one appealing to the well-off, technically savvy early netizens: the Internet would solve its own problems, thank you very much.

With the benefit of fifteen years’ perspective—hardly a fair advantage, to be sure, when critiquing a visionary statement—Barlow’s frantic repudiation of existing institutions looks breathtakingly radical and improbably utopian. Penile enlargement e-mails, offers from Nigerian princes, phishing attempts from “your bank,” million-strong computer botnets, cyberwarfare, stolen credit cards traded openly in hacker forums, online “sextortion” using stolen nude photos, corporate espionage, the underground online market for child sex abuse imagery, anonymous defamation in online forums—all these would be addressed how, exactly, without government? . . .

Excerpted from The Internet Police: How Crime Went Online, and the Cops Followed by Nate Anderson. Copyright © 2013 by Nate Anderson. With permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.