Nebraska Cyber Stalking Law Behind the Times
June 12, 2009 — It’s truly amazing at the number of computer-related gadgets that people use to stalk, intimidate and steal personal communications such as emails – with vengeance in mind. A dear friend, in a terrible divorce in Nebraska, experienced a non-traditional way of being stalked – via computer – keylogging. She discovered the snooping device on her laptop after her computer experienced an unusual slow down. Suspicious, she got to work! Based on her ex’s lack of ethics, combined with a narcissistic/resentful personality, intuitively she knew who was responsible. So, her assumptions triggered research. She went to the computer industry’s top source, PCMagazine.com. An article about keyloggers & anti-spyware encouraged her to obtain a free spydoctor.com scan. That’s when she discovered the evil culprit. And no, her Norton Anti-Virus did not catch the keylogger.
Turns out, her ex wanted a leg-up during divorce litigation. Further, he sought to “get even,” i.e. to punish my friend for some wrong he perceived she caused him. So, this sneaky and conniving “man” began cyberstalking her, using PC Acme Keylogger at pcacme.com. How? He sent my pal an email with a seemingly legitimate attachment. Boom. It infected her computer. For three months, she estimates, that every password she typed, every email communication with her lawyer, etc., went straight to her disgruntled ex for his malicious eyes to read. All her letters, emails, passwords, everything…got sent to a cyberspace server, where her ex logged in – to retrieve her private data. So, his personal/office IP address could not be traced as the keylogger instigator.
Sure, she had the police issue him a ticket for unauthorized use of a computer based on the evidence. But, the stalker got off without a conviction. Why? Prosecutors most likely dropped charges because the crime, which is not specifically addressed in Nebraska law, occured during a divorce case. And, the “crime” did not involve theft of finances. Turns out, that unless prosecutors subpoena credit card records (proof he paid for the software) or to seize his computers, it would difficult for my pal to pinpoint the perpetrator herself, even though she knew – with 100% certainty – who was reasonsible. However, my pal hired a computer expert, who was able to determine the culprit, based on the other security breaches.
The attempts to read my friend’s personal communications – did not stop with keylogging. Her ex also tried to obtain her email passwords, by requesting that her passwords be reset. Fortunately, her email account sent her notice of the attempted security breach, and the email & IP address where it originated. Sure enough, in black and white, the requests for her email passwords – came directly – from her ex. Additionally, on a day when her ex entered their marital residence post-divorce filing, as his Outlook Express email account showed, he had emailed himself several of her pal’s lawyer letters from her computer to his work email account.
A computer expert who examined her computer was able to determine that her ex did all of the following: installed a keylogger on her computer, attempted to reset her email account password and emailed himself her lawyer letters.
The psychological torment to my pal was very real and traumatic. “It was a difficult time for me. The anguish he caused was frightening. His actions disrupted my life. I had nightmares, felt unsafe and scared,” notes my friend. Cyberstalking is just as frightening and potentially dangerous as a stalker at the victim’s front door. Unfortunately, her ex did not stop his antics.
Post-divorce, she reports new violation of privacy issues – via computer too. This time he sent her a series of self-destructing emails. He set a specific date/time to disentegrate the inappropriate communications using a third party service. It didn’t take long for my intelligent friend to figure out what happened to dozens of emails in her yahoo account. The headers remained, but there was empty content inside. Obviously, her ex-husband obsessively worried about the content of emails – he had sent her. So, he intentionally erased emails that would have haunted the con man if exposed. Here too, unless you have Outlook Express or another POP account, you won’t recover your missing emails. Fortunately, my pal printed most of them. She did a screenshot of the emails when they came in*. Whew!
Hard to believe that anyone can buy these programs. But in this internet driven-age, computer-related spy gizmos – are all the rage – especially since it’s nearly impossible to trace the culprit. So, be aware if you are a heavy computer user, and have a computer-saavy enemy with an agenda. Best advice? Print out copies of emails that matter. When your computer freezes up unexpectedly, do some checking. Read. Run free scans for keyloggers and other malware on a periodic basis.
Says my friend, “on all levels, the public needs to be more aware.” Omaha Police and Douglas County prosecutors should enforce the existing law, ‘unauthorized access of a computer’ by subpoening the credit card records and seize computers of suspected stealth stalkers. Nebraska Legislators should jump on board, and pass a specific law that addresses these crimes. Nebraska State Senators should make it a felony to spy on someone or destroy their property via computer. Finally, Omaha media & print reporters should cover this sign-of-the-times issue – which contains all the elements of – a great news story.
For my pal, it’s no surprise that her ex resorted to these malicious antics to cause distress to my friend. She left him, and he wanted to punish her for the rejection. Further, research shows that this is typical behavior from someone with deviant social behavior. Yes, that man my friend divorced should have been arrested, charged and forced to go to Trial. If Douglas County prosecutors got wise, they’d pursue these computer stalking cases, which not only violate a right to privacy, but cause emotional distress, causing fear & anxiety to the victim. Stalking is stalking. It’s a crime and the victim should be able to pursue criminally, as well as seek civil damages. By doing so, prosecutors would get a lot of mileage for themselves, educate the public, while putting these criminal stalkers behind bars.
Editor’s Note: To capture a screen shot of your emails, press the “print screen button” on your keyboard. Then, open up a “new” Microsoft word document. Right click on mouse. Then paste the file. Save/label document in appropriate file.
Editor’s Note No. 2: Keylogger programs like PC Acme Keylogger do have legitimate purposes, such as to keep track of your minor child’s web activities or to monitor employees and the like. But as the article above demonstrates, there are privacy concerns when someone uses it with malicious intent.
Types of Technology-driven stalking:
Report the cyberstalking crime here