Although the Internet can offer many amazing possibilities, and it can be a font of information, it certainly does have its dark side. Understanding the dark side as well as how you could ensure your own safety while online is important. From remaining wary of strangers to keeping your information private, online safety is a very big deal. Yet, far too few people realize the true dangers that are out there. One recent tragedy is that of Franchesca Brown, a 39-year-old pediatrician from Myrtle Beach.
What Happened to Dr. Brown?
The pediatrician had met a man online and was going to meet him and go on a trip. She left for her trip and never returned. The man that she met, and who traveled with her on that trip, stands accused of her murder. Computer forensics specialists say that the John Hodges, the man who was with her, used a computer to research ways of strangling and suffocating someone. The authorities eventually count her body near the hotel where she was staying.
The forensic specialists were able to determine some of the search terms used on the computer. One of the terms was “how long does it take to choke someone to death”, another of the terms was “how long does it take to suffocate someone”, and these could be quite incriminating. Another search term entered about 90 minutes after the first terms was “how to wrap a dead body not to smell”, the experts said. They were also able to determine that the searches were done via a wireless connection at the Hawthorne Suites in Overland Park, where Brown had been staying.
In addition to first-degree murder, Hodges is also charged with eight counts of ID theft, computer crime, and two counts of criminal use of a credit card.
Cases like this are a shame. A poor woman died, duped by a psychopath. However, thanks to the tools and techniques that computer forensics specialists are able to use, it was possible for the forensics team to find evidence that should help to play a role in the conviction of this man.
How Do You Keep Safe?
Stories such as the one above are unfortunately common. Meeting people online might be fine 99% of the time, but even with the best screening from dating sites, you never really know whom you are meeting. A woman is currently suing another of the online dating sites after the site introduced her to a man who proceeded to try to stab her to death. This man also murdered another woman.
If you are meeting people in person that you connected with on the web, you have to take precautions, just as you would if you went out with anyone. This means that you should not meet with the individual at your home or their home. You should meet in a public place, and it should be during the day in the beginning. You should also make sure that you tell others where you are going to be, and whom you are with in case anything were to happen. You do not have to be paranoid, but you should be prepared.
Trying to keep safe online is about more than just keeping away from individuals with murderous intentions. This means that you have to keep your computer activities as safe as possible. Here are a few tips that can help.
- Use antivirus and anti-malware software
- Use a firewall
- Create the best quality passwords
- Be careful of deceptive emails
- Limit the amount of personal data that you put on the web
These things should help you to remain at least a bit safer on the web.
Anita Schepers provides advice and information on computer forensics training at Computer-Forensics-Recruiter.com.