The Wild West

Summary

There are some similarities between the ‘Wild West’ of yesteryear and the present days internet, in term of perils to those who inhabit it and lack of law enforcement.

 At present; the internet has is in some ways similar to the West USA of the late 19th Century.  It is an exciting new frontier; instead of ‘Go West Young Man’ everybody is being encouraged to get on line by relatives, friends and even governments.

But like the frontier of yesteryear, the internet can be a dangerous place for the unwary.  Just because it is new, exciting, different and constantly evolving, the less experienced and weekend surfers can easily be persuaded to go down the backstreets off main street or venture into the ‘badlands’. 

If someone stopped you in the street and offered something for free, or suggested that you follow them as they had something of interest to show you; you would immediately be on your guard because this is not normal.

But the inexperienced users or the occasional surfers come across a unusual invitation, they regard it as just another part of this exciting new world, and fail to distinguish between dodgy and safe.  They are the ones likely to be taken in by Phishing Emails or by pop-up windows advising them that they are infected and need to install some unknown items of software.  The ‘Snake Oil Peddler’ has been replaced by spammers offering Viagra and similar wondrous cure-alls.

Lack of Law Enforcement

Again, just as in the Wild West, law enforcement is virtually no-existent.  As I covered in an earlier post on Email Blacklists; the efforts of some organisations are heavy handed.  {I would compare an email blacklist to a ‘posse’}  Likewise not all lawmakers were heroes in white cowboy suits as in the movies; they could be equally heavy handed.

This situation will continue until someone, somewhere gets a grip on it.  I know that one of the great things about the internet is that it is intended to be open, democratic, even anarchic.  The streets and highways in most of the developed world are open and democratic but not anarchic.  They are there to be used and enjoyed without constantly looking over ones shoulder (unless you go into some parts of town). 

This is a call for some form of law enforcement on the internet.  ‘People have right to advertise’ some will complain; and I don’t object to honest promotion of legitimate products. Equally, most democracies have some form of regulation regarding mis-selling of goods or mis-leading advertising.  But much spam is far worse than that – it is downright malicious; aimed at theft or gaining control over your PC. 

Take an example: An innocent user unwittingly downloads a Trojan which infects their system.  This Trojan all but stops their system from operating and through one or more messages asks them to shell out good money on removal software.  This is not marketing, it is a protection racket!  {Or possibly the aim is to obtain their credit card details}

It is not impossible to track down the servers that the spam is directing people towards or to follow the ‘money trail’.   It will probably require new legislation in many jurisdictions, with co-operation across them.  The World Wide Web does exactly what it says on the tin;  it is global and this will require a global response with co-ordinated efforts so that similar rules and standards apply across most of the world.

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