Topics in This Chapter:
We have worked for quite a variety of places over the last 10 years, from university newspapers to Fortune 500 companies, to NASA, the NSA, and the place where we all met, the CIA. Each place had its own culture and collection of personalities. During our time at these wildly different companies, we discovered a few common traits between what would appear to be an uncategorizable variety of humans. These traits can be simply summed up as man’s desire to snoop, and man’s desire to stray. This book aims to satisfy the former and hopefully help to prevent the latter.
These two traits mentioned, the desire to snoop and the desire to stray, aren’t exactly what they seem to be at first. We’re using them in a slightly different context, so we’ll aim to clear up our definitions right now. For the purposes of this book, we refer to snooping as the curiosity to learn more about something you’re interested in, not any of the more voyeuristic definitions that can be applied to it. As you read these words, you’re probably thinking, “Not Me” I would never snoop on anyone. Before you proceed with condemning us and burning this book, take a second to stop and think about a few things. Have you ever gossiped about someone, ever? Ever gone to your neighbor’s open house just to see how they decorated? Ever read an e-mail over someone’s shoulder, or quickly glanced at a document on someone’s desk? If you answered yes to any of these, like it or not you’ve definitely snooped at some time in your life. Most of us have done these things and realize that a curiosity about your surroundings and others is part of fundamental human nature. Not snooping at all is ignorance, taking it too far is voyeurism, a balanced approach is intelligence collection, and that is what this book is about.
For the second of the traits that we’ll be discussing, straying, our definition of it does not directly correspond with Webster’s. We view straying not as literal infidelity, but the desire for any person to investigate their dark side. This can include but is not limited to cheating on a partner, drug or alcohol problems, gambling, gang participation, cheating in school, or almost any other illegal or unethical activity. We define this as “straying” since we feel most people want to and choose to do the right thing. Only occasionally or under the wrong influence do they embark on these activities. Straying isn’t always a bad thing either, but if it is your loved one is doing this, it is something you should probably know about. Even if you don’t choose to stop or limit this behavior, it is often worth monitoring to ensure that the perpetrators do not harm themselves, you, or others within their lives.
In all of these places we’ve worked and lived, we’ve come to realize that there are two fundamental lessons you can almost always count on: the abundance of human drama and results of having, or not having, the right information. These two lessons go hand in hand. Whether you live and work as a roofer in Baltimore, Domino’s Pizza in Alabama, or the Central Intelligence Agency in Washington, D.C., you encounter the same situations over and over. People’s spouses cheat, people have divorces, people or their children do drugs, fall in with the wrong crowd, and develop gambling or addiction problems. In every single case we discovered that the individuals who were aware of these issues or had prior knowledge of these events fared much better than those who did not. We’ve seen people worked over in divorces and parents completely stunned by their children when they failed to notice the problems.
The different aspects of human drama that we’ve described (divorce, drug use, infidelity, etc.) have been around for a long time. These are the same problems that couples and parents have struggled with for years. The widespread popularity and use of the Internet has added a new twist to these problems. They now can occur faster and easier as people are aided by the wealth of knowledge, instant connectivity, and perceived feeling of anonymity it offers. At one time an individual’s social circle consisted of who they lived with, worked with, went to school with and had direct personal contact with. Now, with direct personal contact not longer a necessity, it often consists of dozens of people spread around the world, some of questionable nature. New social circles are now generally an order of magnitude larger, and far more geographically diverse. In addition the relative anonymity of the Internet makes it far more difficult to judge the character or identity of a person’s Internet contact. How does one know if that twenty-two-year-old woman they’re talking to is really twenty-two, or even a woman?
As a result of this new connectivity the same events that have plagued us for ages are now occurring with the speed and power of the information age. More and more people are using their computers as enabling tools to assist them as they stray. People meet many possible new coconspirators online. In recent years a larger percentage of extramarital affairs have occurred as a result of people first meeting online. Even if the catalyst for the undesirable activity isn’t found online, it is quite common to use the expanded connectivity of the Internet to communicate with them. For example in 2003 several gangs in Plano, Texas, coordinated a big brawl using an online chat room. This demonstrates the pervasiveness of the Internet into almost all aspects of life, even such seemingly unlikely ones like gang activity.
During most of our careers we’ve been in highly technical offices, and worked with highly technical people. These people, like everyone else in the world, had to deal with infidelity, drug use, and other problems. In addition they were also dealing with the influence of computers in these areas. But unlike most of the world, our coworkers had extensive training in computer security, were highly technical, and to put it frankly, quite sneaky. Realizing that technology was brought into play they decided to use their technical background to give them leverage in dealing with these difficult situations. These people would install keystroke loggers, remotely access their computers, and search for digital evidence of the incidents that were affecting them. In most cases simple examination and monitoring yielded surprisingly effective results. Our coworkers got an inside track on what was happening, and armed with this knowledge were more effectively able to confront and handle their challenges. This was especially apparent when they were compared against nontechnical friends, who didn’t have the prior knowledge to use their computer as an effective tool for evidence collection. In almost every case those who had performed some rudimentary cyber-sleuthing were a step ahead, less likely to be blindsided, and had a full idea of the big picture. The old mantra has long been held that knowledge is power, and this is a perfect example.
With this book we seek to take the advantages used by our technically gifted coworkers, and extend it out to a larger audience. After observing firsthand how powerful the correct information can be, and how damaging the lack of it is, we want to do what we can to enable everyone to always have as much of the truth as possible. In most cases the steps necessary to collect useful information from a computer are technically simple. Due to the relative obscurity and taboo nature of these methods, they have been largely unknown to the general public. It is time for that to change. In most cases where this type of information is sought the legal, moral, and physical stakes are too high not to take every advantage possible. We don’t seek or encourage criminal or unethical behavior. We merely want people who are facing challenges in their life to be empowered to seek the truth.
As previously mentioned, computers now play a large part in most people’s lives. Instant and continual connectivity is the hallmark of the information age. With this newfound power people are reaching out and coming in contact with larger groups than previously possible with more traditional methods of socializing. In addition the appearance of anonymity makes many far bolder online than in their real lives. People feel free to explore areas of interest online that they would normally never experiment with in the real world. This combination of apparent anonymity and connectivity can sometimes lead to disastrous results. Over the last five years, as Internet access has become more pervasive, the number of Internet-related and Internet-enabled vices has increased as well. Most apparent are online infidelity, drug activity, and collaboration for other illicit activities.
If only everyone had labels. Figure 1.1 shows a few people gathering with their laptops to relax, socialize, and go about their business. Unlike this scene, the activities of your family may not be as obvious. Without delving deep into their minds, you may never really know what is going on in their lives. If everyone’s actions were as easy to read as in this figure, we likely wouldn’t be writing this book. One of the great mysteries of humankind is that unless people tell you, it’s difficult to ever really know what they are thinking. An even then, it’s impossible to ever truly know that they’re telling you the absolute truth. If the labels were left out of Figure 1.1 it would be just another slice of life at a neighborhood coffee shop.
Notice almost everyone in the picture was going about their activity with the aid of a computer. When traditional methods of communication break down, short of mind reading, spying on a computer may be the best way to determine what a person is up to. We feel it is very important for people to be aware of the warning signs and to have an understanding of the true nature of online threats. Not everyone is running off with people they’ve met online, all kids aren’t buying drugs from eBay, and not everyone out there is a dangerous cyber-stalker. Too often the media preys on fear and a lack of understanding to fuel their sensationalism. Since many of these concepts, and computers in general are still somewhat mysterious to the general population, it is easy to prey upon the unknown to build an unreasonable and unrealistic fear. We seek to explain the actual nature of the threats that we are aware of. By no means do we claim to be comprehensive in our knowledge or understanding of all possible cyber-threats. We seek only to present what we know about real threats and their related warning signs. With this book as an introduction, one can study the areas they are interested in deeper to gain a far more comprehensive understanding of their areas of concern.
Online infidelity offers the paradox of being one of the most obvious and hardest to nail down cyber-threats that most people will face. Online infidelity ranges from a relatively innocent chat, to cybering (sex talk over the Internet), to in real life (IRL) meetings. Since a cyber-affair can refer to so many different situations we will use the definition given by Dr. Young as reprinted on netaddiction.com [1,2]:
“Cyber-affairs are generally defined as any romantic or sexual relationship initiated via online communication, predominantly electronic conversations that occur in virtual communities such as chat rooms, interactive games, or newsgroups”
It is important to note that while cyber-affairs start out as online chats, they can eventually lead to real-life relationships or dangerous encounters. While cybering and other online sex talk can be detrimental to a relationship, we feel that a serious line is crossed when both people involved take it into real life. When this occurs it is no different than a traditional affair, except in how it was initiated. This is important since infidelity in the form of a sexual affair has been shown to have an effect in court on divorce settlements and other legal actions.
Cyber-affairs have increased for many reasons. Most apparent is opportunity. The growth of Internet use has increased the total number of people online, leading to an increase in the number of people participating in and looking for extramarital escape. As we had mentioned earlier this is part of expanding social circles. As the number of contacts increases, so does the likely pool of applicants for cyber-affairs and other mischief. It is quite easy to find a sympathetic ear online. Chat is not the only outlet for this; online message boards and dating services are also popular locations for finding partners. Craigslist (www.craigslist.org), a very popular online message board, has an entire section of its personals devoted to casual encounters. It is saddening but not completely unsurprising how many of the ads are from married people seeking one-time relationships. Ads such as these are often accompanied with the infamous NSA (no strings attached) disclaimer. In addition several ads were for sex, but with a “donation” required. Popular rumors indicate that these were really fronted by prostitutes. Here are a few recent personal ads from Craigslist for the Washington, D.C. area.
I’ve recently discovered a personal fascination with kissing games and other such sexually themed party activities. I would like to get some friendly bi folks together and play a few of these games openly without being judged by homophobes.
If you are female and enjoy stroking a man with your bare feet, then you’ re the one I’m seeking to fulfill my foot-play fantasy. I’m looking for a safe, discreet one-time encounter. I’ll reciprocate with my tongue. Let’s exchange emails and get acquainted. Prefer a woman with red toes;-)
I’ve always wanted to have sex in my office. My desk, a conference room, a storage room, anywhere at all. It would have to be sometime after 8:00 PM, preferably next week. I’m in the Ballston area, near metro.
I am a married white guy in Northwest who is seeking lots of discretion and lots of fun. I would get a room for several hours in one of DC’s classy, upscale hotels. We would get room service and sip champagne. And have great conversation…interested? E-mail me with your description, etc. Marrieds only!
People find all sorts of different types of relationships rewarding. I have had great relationships in the past with young women (18–25, generally) and would love to find an open-minded, slender, intelligent young woman who wants to explore her sexuality with an older man who is very comfortable to be with, understanding, patient, fun, and very sexual! Let me show you what real pleasure can be. I’m tall, lean, in great shape. You don’t have to be all that experienced yourself. I told you I’m patient; I’ll be glad to teach you! Obviously it will be a tremendous turn-on for me to be with you, but I will more than reciprocate by making sure you have a great time.
Another leading cause of cyber-affairs is the anonymity the Internet provides. Unlike going to a bar, the chance of accidental discovery remains low until the actual meeting. The perceived ability to remain anonymous decreases the risk involved, which makes the cyber-affair more tempting. Once again after examining the personal ads listed here, you can see all of them were set up for anonymous reply. Without the fear of discovery and persecution most people feel very free to explore the limits of what they can do.
One trend that has popped up over the last few years has been the increase in the number of women participating in extramarital affairs . They are now entering what was once a male dominated field. While there are many factors contributing to this rise in percentage (such as the increase in the number of women in the workforce) the influence of online activity has been shown to be a factor as well. Housewives who stay home can often find what appears to be a compassionate and understanding friend online. People looking for sex online can log on and act interested in the lives of ordinary housewives. The Internet makes the connection of these two unlikely partners exceptionally easy.
One report  has results showing that as many as thirty percent of online cyber-affairs (where a married person is flirting) may lead to real affairs. The following lists several of the warning signs that could be indicative of a cyber-affair, or cybersexual addiction :
None of these signs are an iron-clad guarantee of a problem. But they can be indicators. Using these signs and other clues, or possible computer sleuthing can help you determine if there is in fact something going on.
Online drug access is another hot topic we wish to address. For the purposes of this book, when we refer to drugs online we are speaking about drugs that are currently illegal in the United States—marijuana, cocaine, or prescription drugs that have a high likelihood of abuse. We do not mean prescription drugs (such as penicillin) purchased from Canadian and overseas pharmacies. There is a current debate about the legality of those issues, but that is not our concern with this book.
In performing research for this book we decided to investigate several popular Internet drug rumors. The first is that there are several “code words” used to be able to purchase marijuana and other drugs on eBay. These code words were designed to circumvent eBay’s very strict policies on illegal items. After extensive searching, and speaking with knowledgeable sources, we came to the conclusion that if there ever were, there are no longer any key words for purchasing drugs on eBay. The second rumor we attempted to address was the fact that there were several Web sites that sold drugs directly to online shoppers. Once again extensive searching failed to yield any positive results. Although we could not successfully find any sites, there are probably some that exist. These may be invitation only sites, to prevent discovery from law enforcement. Keep in mind that most methods of drug distribution are in a state of constant evolution as distributors struggles to evade authorities.
While our searches for well-known illegal drugs came up short, we did find some disturbing sites. Consistent offenders in this category are offshore pharmacies that sold Vicoden, Ritalin, Valium and other prescription pharmaceuticals. While none of these drugs are the ones that are traditionally viewed as illegal, they are all strongly controlled and very susceptible to abuse. In addition we found dozens of sites advertising “legal drugs and drug substitutes” as well as several sites describing in-depth ways for people to build their own drug-like substances. Herbal drug substitutes such as Salvia, Kreton, and peyote cactus are available online. These herbal substitutes are not illegal, but all are on the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency’s “drugs and chemicals of concern” watch list . Many of these herbal drug substitutes have the same side effects as traditional drugs, and can be easily purchased online. Most of the sites offering them had no age or ID checks. While none of this may be as “bad” as buying cocaine online, they all are things people would strongly discourage, or at least want to know that their child or spouse is investigating.
Even if people are not using the Internet to find new conspirators for their illicit activities, if they are pursing any, it is very likely they are using the Internet in some way for its coordination. Due to its pervasive nature, the Internet is an excellent communication system. It can be much less intrusive, and it is easier to hide communication done with computers than with traditional devices such as telephones. When you have to log on and read e-mail it is much harder for someone to accidentally stumble across anything incriminating. This avoids the problem of the spouse answering the phone when the other participant in the affair calls. Today’s computer-literate children often see it as a valuable communication tool as well. They are aware that parents can scrutinize phone bills or caller ID logs, but many are clueless when it comes to tracking e-mail and viewing instant messenger logs. Many teenagers would be reluctant to discuss their sex lives or drug use on the family phone, for fear of being overheard by parents, but often feel uninhibited when e-mailing their friends or chatting about it online.
Not everyone who uses the Internet will participate in these behaviors. Many couples stay faithful their entire lives, and many children never participate in illegal activities. Most people won’t have to worry about or deal with these things. Even if you are one of those lucky enough to be confident in your spouse and children’s wholesomeness, it is still wise to be aware of the dangers, to understand how they occur, and to know the warning signs. In the words of Flavius Vegetius Renatus “Let him who desires peace prepare for war.” Awareness of the dangers and the warning signs costs very little, and can have dramatic and beneficial results.
Perhaps the most difficult decision in the entire process of determining what secrets a person is hiding is determining what steps and remedies are available. Despite lingering suspicions, until positive proof is established that a person is engaged in undesirable and unacceptable activities, the suspicious party could be unnecessarily jeopardizing the relationship. One of the first steps in finding malfeasance is to first determine what you are willing to do in order to uncover what your suspected target is doing. This is where your code of ethics will come in to play.
Ethics are standards of conducts, that guide decisions and actions, based on duties derived from core values. At a young age people develop their ethics and morals from their parents and their environment. A quick glance around you at the people you interact with can easily demonstrate how everyone has their own set of ethics. Even among certain apparently similar demographics—criminals, for instance—there is a set of ethics that they live by; even if those ethics are abhorrent to society at large. This set of ethics and morals guides people in their decision making. Often people will disdain those who make decisions that do not fit within their moral and ethical framework. Each individual has his own code of ethics that he lives by, and staying true to these ethics is very important.
For most people, the decision to spy on their loved ones is a very difficult one to make. This decision is wrought with a host of emotional and ethical issues that will pervade the entire process from start to finish. It can very easily start with some basic checking up on someone and quickly proceed to the point of crossing the line. The extremity of the measure a person will undertake in order to prove or disprove their suspicions will be bounded by the ethics and morals that the person has. Some people will quickly come to the decision that everything they will do in pursuit of their suspicions is acceptable, while others will feel that any degree of snooping is outside the boundaries of the relationship. For most people the decision is not as clear-cut, and they will need to determine which steps are acceptable to them, and at what point they will stop. It is very difficult for people to undertake actions, which violate their code of ethics. Often the activities that break a person’s ethical code come with deep feelings of guilt, thus it is very important to determine what you are willing to do, and what level of spying you can comfortably live with.
When faced with the possibility of needing to determine what another person is doing, clear boundaries and guidelines must be established ahead of time to prevent unintended consequences. It is fairly easy to establish that certain activities would cross ethical boundaries. For instance installing spyware on a loved one’s computer at work would certainly be ethically as well as legally wrong. On the other hand, looking at the contents of a person’s pockets while doing laundry would not be violating most people’s ethics. It is the activities in between the two extremes that present the ethical dilemma.
Activities that are being hidden from a person can have a profound and lasting effect upon them. In many situations it is far better to have the knowledge to protect yourself and others from long-lasting damage. If parents are trying to determine if an online stalker is targeting their daughter, that relationship has a serious potential to provide long-lasting damage to the child. If spouses are being unfaithful, they have the potential to bring back possible life-threatening diseases to their mates. Most of the activities that people attempt to hide from others are the ones most likely to hurt or damage themselves or others.
The reader now must decide what boundaries they are willing to cross in order to determine what is happening with the other person, and therein lies the ethical dilemma. Normal boundaries may not be sufficient; the information that is hidden may require extreme measures to ascertain. Nobody enjoys (well, a few people do) spying on their loved one, but they must determine if spying is better than the alternative. Each person will have to decide what steps will violate his or her code of ethics. When it comes to violating someone’s privacy for a personal or greater good, there is never an easy answer. Some people will have no problems doing this, while others will wrestle with the question. Once a person has decided what they deem is the clear line in the gray area, they can begin to spy.
In every interpersonal relationship there is a level of trust that is built between the two parties. While building trust takes time and effort to achieve, it takes only a single keystroke to rip it all apart. Trust is the cornerstone of any relationship; without it there is very little hope of success. By spying on a spouse you put all preexisting trust at risk, and open it up to possible irreversible damage. This risk must be understood before the spying process begins.
Some people believe that spying upon their significant others would violate the trust in the relationship. In their minds there are no actions that their partners could commit that would justify spying. Any degree of it would ruin the trust in the relationship. These people would hesitate to take any action that could possibly undermine this trust.
Most people will subconsciously know that something is not right in the relationship. If the other person is hiding activities then they have already destroyed any trust. For example, if someone’s spouse is hiding his infidelity from his mate, then he has destroyed the trust. A once-open child hiding disturbing behavior from his parents is another example. Once a person decides to conceal activities because they know that these activities would violate an interpersonal relationship, then they have broken whatever trust existed in that relationship.
Spying can create a culture of mistrust between the parties in an interpersonal relationship. Human nature already makes us very distrustful of others and their intentions. It is very easy to take the worst possible interpretation of a set of facts. If a husband feels that his wife does not trust him, this will create strain upon the relationship; it also may lead to the husband doing things to purposefully cause the wife angst. Then this may lead to the wife trusting her husband less. This vicious circle may never be broken and could ultimately cause the relationship to fail. Even though no one initially did anything wrong, the culture of mistrust grew and took over. Once undertaken this cannot be easily broken.
Spying automatically forces mistrust upon a relationship. Even if spying returns no proof of wrongdoing, will the other person ever truly be trusted again? Are people willing to live in a relationship that they feel is only acceptable by constantly checking up on the other individual?
Mistrust does not work in only one direction. Even if initially it is only directed to one aspect, it can quickly consume the entire relationship. Entering into the culture of mistrust can be just as damaging as any activities that would have been hidden. We say this not to dissuade anyone but merely to provide a warning to some of the possible unintended consequences. As the old saying goes “be careful what you wish for, you might just get it.”
In the end we feel that a nuanced approach to the ethical dilemma of spying on loved ones should be taken. The world would be a much better place if people did not do things that would cause harm to their loved ones, and there would be no reason for this book to be written. But sadly this is not the case. So we feel spying is an acceptable solution to certain problems but we caution you to proceed carefully. Before you begin spying ask yourself these questions.
There are no easy answers to these questions; however answering them will at least provide a guide for further action. We feel that if a person suspects that something is going on then they have the right to ask some questions. If the answers to these questions do not satisfy the feeling, it is acceptable to begin the process of determining what steps you are willing to take. This is the last point at which no boundaries have been crossed. After here the process of spying has begun. If the person is still suspicious and decides to go forward with an investigation, then he should proceed slowly being as unobtrusive as possible.
We feel that an easy and relatively inoffensive first step would be to examine everything that is within the public realm and look at that information. Although this could cause a breakdown of trust within the relationship, the person has not at this point done anything to actively spy on the other person. If the person’s suspicions are confirmed, then it is time to determine what additional actions should be considered. We would suggest again that you carefully evaluate your options before taking any action. If additional remedies are needed, then we feel that you should do everything possible to protect yourself without violating the law or your internal ethics.
This book is intended to provide information that can be used ethically. Many things discussed here can also be used in a very unethical and inappropriate manner as well. It is up to the readers to determine if utilizing this information and technology violates their ethics, and their responsibility to stay within the law.
Weddings are one of the happiest days in many people’s lives; the day is full of hope and optimism for the future. Everyone toasts the happy couple and the beginning of their lives together. Unfortunately, not all marriages have fairy tale endings. However, people change, and divorce happens. Despite everyone wishing that his or her marriage is in the small percentage that last, this may be hopeless optimism. Figure 1.2 visualizes the percentage of people who reach their respective anniversaries.
Figure 1.2 Percentages of People Who Reach Their Respective Anniversaries 
There are many reasons why a marriage fails, and there are no winners when this happens. The marriage contract both explicitly lays out each person’s obligations toward the marriage, and in most states, the law is explicit as to what happens in the case of a failed marriage and the resultant divorce. During marriage both partner’s assets and liabilities become the responsibility and property of the other. Since each person’s actions directly influence the other person, each person has an obligation to be up-front and honest with his or her activities. If people are undertaking activities and hiding them from their spouses, that is a cause of concern. People have a right to know what is going on in their spouse’s life, since it may affect them.
It would be naive to think that there are no secrets between a couple, or that it is possible to know what the other person is doing at all hours. However, there is a degree of honesty and trust that must be maintained. Once this has been broken then it is very difficult to build it up again. That is not to say that at any sign of misdoing the spouse loses all rights to privacy, but to serve as a warning to what can happen if the decision to hide something from the spouse is taken. All of the trust can forever be lost from the relationship, even if nothing untold is happening.
The decision to spy on a spouse should never be taken lightly. Once the decision to remove that person’s privacy has been made, it cannot be taken back. If the only way to save the marriage is to constantly snoop on the spouse, then there may be something more going on than it appears (and perhaps the marriage is not worth saving). We feel that any step possible short of spying should be taken before actually doing it. There may be other ways to determine what is going on without resorting to snooping. Once the trust in a relationship has been violated, it is not a trivial matter to re-establish it. There will be subtle signs that will be picked up on, that will cause reasons for concern. This will allow a spouse to begin to determine if the hidden behavior is bad enough to cause the need to snoop.
We don’t advocate spying on spouses for “fun,” or to continually keep tabs on them. Since spying is such a significant undertaking in both resources and potential risk, we feel only very important scenarios warrant spying on your spouse. Those scenarios are questions of fidelity, financial security, liability, and personality disorders.
A leading cause for trouble in a marriage is infidelity by one of the partners. Peggy Vaughan, author of The Monogamy Myth: A Personal Handbook for Recovering from Affairs, estimates that 60 percent of men and 40 percent of women will have affairs during their marriages. Since the second party in the affair may not necessarily be married, these affairs are believed to touch 80 percent of all marriages. This enormous percentage should cause great concern, and the warning signs for infidelity should not be ignored. The following are just some warning signs that may be indicators of infidelity :
If a spouse is showing several of these signs, then some serious questions should be asked. If satisfactory answers are not given then it is time to be proactive. Due to the potential lethality of sexual transmitted diseases, this is not to be taken lightly. One place that evidence of cheating may reside will be on the family computer. Please keep in mind that many of these warning signs can have non-adulterous causes as well. We caution you in many cases to investigate carefully and thoroughly before jumping to any conclusions.
Money issues are another one of the top reasons that marriages face problems. Financial security and arguments about money have driven many marriages to the divorce court. Since a couple’s finances are linked, if one spouse is hiding significant financial activity from the other, this is cause for concern. There are many ways to lose fiscal responsibility while using one’s computer. These range from responding to spam advertisements for money laundering scams, sports gambling, online gambling, excessive purchases, and Internet sex rooms. All of these activities can cause a financial hardship upon the relationship. Spouses have the right to know how their money is being used, and if their credit is being ruined by the actions of their spouse. It is not unheard of for a malicious spouse to deliberately ruin the couple’s finances by spending all of the cash, and maxing out credit cards before leaving the relationship. In addition personal finance software, often with detailed financial records, is stored on most family computers. This software may hold financial clues about your spouse’s wrongdoings. Although not the most glamorous reason for snooping on a spouse, financial problems can cause some of the most long-lasting damage even long after the relationship has ended.
When a couple gets married, the phrase for better or worse is used in the typical ceremony. This is not just for kicks; the liabilities of one spouse are automatically transferred to the other spouse. If one spouse gets sued, the effects will cascade across the marriage. If a husband or wife is engaging in activities that represent a great risk to the couple, both individuals have a right to know what is happening. Since liability resides upon both individuals equally, then both partners have the right to know. If that information is being held outside the purview of the spouse, then spying may be the only way to get to the truth of the matter. For example, if one member of a family is committing an online crime, results of that crime, if caught, could be drastic. The family will immediately lose the computer as it becomes evidence. In addition the entire family will be examined as possible coconspirators. In situations like this ignorance is not a good excuse. Keep this in mind if you feel your spouse is involved in questionable dealings, online or offline.
Some people are very good at masking their real selves from their loved ones. They are one person to their family and friends and a completely other person in an online digital identity. These people may suffer from personality disorders that govern their behavior, which can vary dramatically from moment to moment. They choose which behavior they would like people to see, and go to great lengths to hide their “other personality” from family members. It’s not uncommon when watching the news to see the friends and family of an accused criminal state how the accused was “the nicest person someone could be.” Although this is a worst-case scenario, the Internet does allow people to act how the wish they could in real life, due to the perceived anonymity and moral permissiveness provided. Someone that you know and love could be a completely different person when he is interacting online. Of course, there is a difference between someone merely pretending online, and someone with a serious problem. Only by monitoring people’s actions can their true intentions be gleaned.
In extreme cases like this, spying can be a useful means of confirming a suspicion, or tipping you off to someone’s problems. However, in cases of multiple identities or personalities, you are often dealing with someone with serious medical problems. These cases should usually be handed off to the proper authorities and be dealt with by true experts. We want the readers of this book to be prepared to find out about infidelity and their kids’ drug problems or skipping school. We are not trying to prepare you to pursue the next Ted Bundy.
There is no magic answer as to when it is appropriate to spy on a spouse. Each instance must be taken as a separate case. What may work for one couple may not be an acceptable alternative for others. The decision to snoop should never be taken lightly, and all alternatives ought to be exhausted before taking those steps. Once taken these actions can never be withdrawn; even if no wrongdoing is found, the relationship may never be the same. The decision to snoop will continually get easier; it should be used only as a last resort to protect oneself from the influences of the spouse. Despite wedding vows given in the best intentions, some people do not honor them and will place their spouse unknowingly at risk for their own needs. They will sacrifice their relationship to satisfy other desires. If this is happening self-preservation dictates action.
In the context of this book, spying on your children may be one of the easiest and least morally ambiguous decisions you will make. In fact most parents to some extent or another, naturally spy on their children. Parents want to, and have the right to know whom their children interact with, what they do, and what goes on in their lives when they’re not at home. What parent has never picked up a telephone extension, listened up against a door, watched out the window, or casually looked through belongings while cleaning a child’s room. Many parents take any action they can to gain insight into their children’s lives. We feel all of this is normal, and appropriate. Parental involvement overt and covert, is a necessary element.
But, alas times have changed. The world has turned a bit, and life has sped up with it. While very classic and useful, the techniques mentioned in the previous paragraph may no longer be sufficient. Most kids are proficient computer users, in many cases surpassing their parents. They are often well aware of the latest “fads” for computer use. If there is a new cool way for them to talk to each other, they will most likely be using it. Children under eighteen are some of the fastest adapters and most prolific users of new technology. Instant messaging, texting, e-mail, and blogs are fast replacing traditional and more traceable means of communication. What would have been passed as a note in classroom ten years ago is now text messaged from one cell phone to the next. The household phone doesn’t offer nearly the connectivity or flexibility of instant messaging. When it comes to getting in touch, the kids are on the cutting edge, and most parents are left in the wake. In most children’s minds the Internet is a “safe” communication and coordination mechanism that their parents do not understand and can never pry into.
Living on the bleeding edge posts an increasing danger to most children. Since they are out there pushing the limits of the Internet, often alone and unguided, they are free to explore almost anything that the net makes possible. In many cases this can be troubling or even dangerous. Even worse, since most children are out there alone, they are without the moral and ethical guidance of their more experienced parents. Instead of learning from the actions and examples of their families, children are led to learn and adapt what they see their peers do. There is often a very wide gap between most traditional family values and morals, and those shown by the millions of online netizins. Encountering this ethical chasm, especially young impressionable and alone, can produce confusion, desire, rebellion, and can often lead to trouble.
We break down the types of trouble children can find on the net into two broad classes, old dangers and new dangers. New dangers consist of activities that are relatively new, and would not exist without the Internet. Examples of these are online property theft, hacking, and purchasing schoolwork. Old dangers are new Internet-enabled spins on classic childhood problems. These include drugs, skipping and cheating in school, and bullying. These old dangers are not exactly caused by the Internet, but are made much easier due to its influence. One must understand and be on the lookout for both.
As previously mentioned, new dangers are those that never existed before the Internet. These can include, but are not limited to purchasing schoolwork, intellectual property theft, and criminal hacking. These are all crimes that occur easily, but can also be prevented by watching what happens online.
Cheating on schoolwork has always been a problem. As long as there has been schoolwork, children have been cheating on it. Now, however, the Internet has made it far easier, and much harder to catch. Before a child’s group of conspirators was limited to his or her classmates and siblings. Now it has been expanded to include anyone a child can get in touch with across the Internet. We have seen questions about homework being posted on online message boards. These message boards, often set up to discuss topic-specific information such as cars or computer security offer a place where questions can be asked that will reach thousands of eyes. In such places it is not unusual to have an answer within minutes. Now that most schoolwork is done in electronic format, many former students post all of their previous work, leaving a wealth of material for those who follow. It is also not unheard of to search for answer keys, teachers’ manuals, and other resources. While they may furnish the correct answer, they are not what is intended by the original assignment. Finally, there are even some sites such as www.termpaperrelief.com that offer, for a page-by-page fee, to have your papers custom written for you. This capability exploits laziness and makes cheating a trivial task. It takes only a few mouse clicks to obtain a professionally written term paper, all for $14.99 a page.
While using the Internet to find homework solutions can show resourcefulness on the behalf of the child, it comes with its own problems. For one the child is not accomplishing the original task set out by his or her instructors. Instead of learning and solving the problems, children are merely finding the answers to their problems. The true lessons of the work are being bypassed. In addition there is often no guarantee of correctness for what they find online. Anyone can post anything on the Internet, and not all material on the Internet has been edited by fact checkers. By cheating online most children are cheating themselves out of an education.
Online property theft is another issue. Would you approve if you child stole a CD or DVD from the mall? Most parents would never allow that, yet they are blind to a very similar crime occurring on their family computers. File sharing networks such as fasttrack (Kaaza, the first Morpheus), overnet (Edonkey), and Gnutella (shareza, etc), IRC, Warez Web sites and bittorent sites (www.suprnova.org) allow just that. Figure 1.3 shows Edonkey, the current king of peer-to-peer file trading.
Each of these applications was designed for a perfectly legal and legitimate use, the easy sharing of information. However, realizing the power and perceived anonymity of these networks, many users have turned them into giant networks specializing in the trade of pirated movies, music, software, and pornography. Copyright holders for this shared media argue that they are losing hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue annually due to online piracy. Those downloading would argue that they are not committing theft, merely copyright violation, if that. In their minds stealing the music is no different than taping it from the radio, and that these companies aren’t losing any money on them, since they would never buy the music/movie/software anyway. As individuals who both profit from intellectual property, and are outraged at the exorbitant prices for media, we can see both sides of the argument. We can only hope that eventually an acceptable online compromise will develop. Certain ventures like Apple’s iTunes have risen to fill the online gap and provide legitimate and cost-effective purchase of online media. However right or wrong, very powerful lobbying organizations such as the RIAA (Recording Industry Artists Association) and MPAA (Motion Picture Artists Association) are filing lawsuits against specific Internet users whome they have deemed are violating their copyrights. Those targeted are often offered a $3000 settlement or the chance to fight it in court against the massive teams of lawyers fielded against them. Many of these targeted are children whose parents often claim ignorance or unawareness of what is occurring on their computer. In fact one of the first and most publicized individuals sued by the RIAA was was a thirteen-year-old girl whose parents were completely unaware that she was sharing music online. Wherever you stand on these issues keep in mind whether a lawsuit is worth the price of a $16.00 hip-hop CD?
The final new danger we wish to present is criminal hacking. While the very definition of the word hacking is surrounded in controversy, for the purpose of this book, we will define it as “any use of a computer to gain unauthorized access or deny legitimate access to another computer system.” It is important to monitor your children to ensure that they are not hacking. It is no longer the harmless pastime of computer nerds. New powerful tools and Web sites detailing technique make it accessible to all but the least computer savvy. With these tools and knowledge it is quite easy to cause a lot of damage online. A Denial of Service (DOS) attack on a corporate Web site can result in millions in lost revenue. Breaking into a computer system holding credit cards compromises both the machine and those cards; even if the cards are never used illicitly, the act still causes the expensive need to reissue them. With such high monetary values attached to hacking, it is now a crime that most companies, and the FBI take very seriously.
If your child or spouse is a hacker or computer expert, and you are not, proceed with caution. You must be very careful to gauge your child’s level of paranoia. Your child is likely to be more adept than you at spying on people and monitoring computers. Children are already very well aware of most common tools and techniques. The most important advantage you have will be the element of surprise. Hopefully, your children will have little suspicion as to any bugs or monitoring on their home computers, you’re a computer newbie after all. In these cases the home computer is ideal for bugging. The hacker or expert will use it almost completely trusting it as a safe and unmonitored computer.
Over the last few years blogging, the process of creating an online Web log or diary, has become extremely popular. Many people, including children, find this a great outlet to pseudo-anonymously vent on the many frustrations they encounter in their day-to-day lives. While searching the Web for information for this book, we came across many different blogs and forums. One disturbing trend we noticed was that many teenagers were baring their souls to complete strangers on these forums, posting about themselves and detailed aspects of their lives, including their sexual activity. While that in itself may be OK, and is a way for people to bond, the worrisome aspect was that many posted in true name, and with their e-mail address as part of the information. This is creating a forum where people can learn all about someone’s private life, and with their e-mail address have the beginning of a stalking capability.
Along with the new dangers, many classic problems have a new spin given to them thanks to the Internet. Drugs, skipping out of class, bullying, and pornography are all problems that have always existed. Now it is even easier to secretly get involved and get away with them.
As we mentioned in the introduction, we feel that the Internet has made it much easier to become involved with illegal drugs. Aside from the fact that one can purchase many controlled drugs such as Valium online there is a huge emerging market of herbal equivalents. Salvia, peyote, and others can easily be bought online along with all the paraphernalia to turn them into legitimate mind-altering substances. Another aspect is the fact that children can use the Internet to connect themselves with people handling and distributing traditional illegal drugs. A quick look at Craigslist shows several people looking for “420” partners. The 420 partners may be a method of finding a drug distributor online. Going down this path presents a twofold danger to children: first, they are involved with illegal drugs, and second, they will be meeting and making themselves vulnerable to a complete stranger. This is very dangerous.
Skipping school, cheating, and bullying are other age-old problems that are receiving new twists due to the power of online collaboration. In the previous section we mentioned how we feel cheating has become a “new danger” due to its now relative ease. Skipping school, gang involvement, and other questionable activities are easier to participate and coordinate due to the Internet. In a couple of instant message clicks a child can have set up plans, a time, and location with a friend all in the time it would have taken him to dial the number if he was using a traditional phone. Bullying has always been a traumatic issue for some children. Now in the virtual world it takes on a new meaning. No longer is someone merely picked on in a lunchroom or school. Bullying can extend into the online domain. There have been several cases of children making “mockery” Web sites, poking fun at their targets, making their comments and available for everyone to see. This can be a big problem regardless of what end of the stick you’re on. Bullying can also take place in chat groups or e-mail lists as one child “flames” another with insults and publicly humiliates him or her. If your child is a recipient, this issue needs to be quickly addressed and handled; if your child is the bully, this behavior needs to be stopped immediately to avoid a slander lawsuit in our very litigious society.
Everything we’ve mentioned so far relating to how your child can get in trouble online has been something that the child has to willingly do. There are quite a few things children can do to put themselves on the wrong side of right, and the law, and our list is by no means nearly comprehensive. However, there is another fearsome danger, one that you don’t have to look for to find; it will find you, the online predator/pedophile. Predators and pedophiles have seemingly always existed and been a deep fear of most parents. Now the anonymity of the Internet has made them even more fearless, and its connectivity opens up their pool of potential prey. Like their predecessor of yesteryear, they still hang around areas of high prey concentration, but instead of playgrounds, schools, and daycare centers, these cyber-pedophiles frequent chat rooms often visited by young children.
To demonstrate how prevalent sexual predators or people at least willing to violate the law are, we created a yahoo messenger account, and made it look like that off a sixteen-year-old girl. Figure 1.4 shows a screenshot of our pseudo-account profile for “Sarah”:
Sarah entered several chat rooms. First on a Friday evening at around 11:00 P.M., entering a local romance for Virginia chat room. Within two minutes she had received four chat invitations from four different men ranging in ages allegedly from 18 to 21. After briefly chatting with each of these men, she had pretty much been asked the same questions, “Do you like older men?” “Do you have a cam?” Would you let me view it?” The next morning at 9:00 am she entered a different chat room, 15-18xxx. Once again she was bombarded with messages, this time the potential suitors were from far away (the predators in the U.S. must still be asleep), Cyprus and Turkey. The topics they wished to discuss were similar to the previous night, starting with some small talk and then trying to find out my opinions on sex and masturbation. Finally, on a Monday evening she re-entered the Virginia romance chat room. This time it was the most interesting proposition, one person asked within the first few statements if she was interested in a sexual encounter. Even the fact that “Sarah” was 16 and a minor did not seem to affect him.
In the following, we have included part of the conversation resulting from this interaction. The alleged predator’s yahoo ID has been changed. We inserted dirtylarry001, a name we control instead of the predator’s original ID. In addition the first chat line was cut and pasted from the actual chat window since as of this writing Yahoo Messenger does not archive the first line of any chat. In performing this experiment we did not set out to entrap, expose, or “bust” this or any predator out there. This is a job left to law enforcement. In fact we feel that many vigilante sites that do attempt to expose cyber-predators are violating numerous privacy and slander laws. We merely want to demonstrate the reality of sexual predators in Internet chat rooms. (Please note, some of the material uses strong language and content):
All of this experimentation leads us to believe that if you are online and you present the right type of profile, those looking for you will find you. All we had to do was sit in a chat room, and apparently this guy was trolling the list of participants looking for those he was interested in. This is a powerful demonstration of the prevalence of Internet predators.
And finally online addiction should not be forgotten. In many ways just using the Internet itself can be like a drug. Kids now spend more time in front of the computer than the TV. Even if all the time online is spent in harmless activity, it is important to monitor what goes on. Not paying attention to what your children are doing online is the equivalent of buying 500 channels (including adult ones) and turning your children loose to watch unsupervised. It is important to watch your child and make sure they lead a balanced life. One needs to make sure that the Internet, like most things, is taken in moderation. Failure to do this could lead to a host of social and mental problems.
For all the reasons listed, and many more, we feel it is definitely appropriate to monitor your children’s online activity. Done correctly it can be nonintrusive yet still offer you protection. By knowing what your child does online you can help steer your child down a correct moral and legal path. Monitoring does not have to be a “big brother” activity where you confront your child on every suspicion and raise and environment of mistrust. Instead, it can be a chance to watch your children grow, observe for signs of trouble, and gently guide when necessary. When online most children are entering an adult and dangerous world, often without the maturity and seasoned judgment needed to stay safe. There is always the risk of falling victim to an online predator, many of whom are constantly roaming the Internet searching for new prey. When most parents ask themselves the rhetorical question, “how can I spy on my kids?” they must realize the dangers that exist out there and then ask themselves, “how can I not?”
Spying is commonly known as the world’s second oldest profession, and has been practiced by governments, corporations, and individuals for ages. Spying is the process of gathering knowledge from someone despite his or her intentions to keep the information secret. While there may be no honor among thieves, there are rules among spies. As unlikely as it would seem, most spies have some boundaries that they feel should not be crossed in pursuit of information for their cause. Even among superpowers and governments, there are unwritten rules that are followed in the quest for information supremacy. We mention this because we feel that even you, as an amateur family spy, must follow rules. While you may not have to worry about the Geneva Convention when you are tracking your child’s e-mail, you should make sure that you have a very clear idea of what you can and cannot do.
High tech spying used to be an exclusive club; joining required a significant amount of money and expertise. As the technology becomes more integrated into our everyday lives, it is easier for normal people to monitor our activities. While this book demonstrates how to use technology to your advantage, it also illustrates methods that may be abused. In a free society information is not controlled, it is easy to find plans on how to build a bomb from everyday materials on the Internet, or how to defraud people of their life savings. Even if the information can be used for purposes other than what it was intended, the information should still be available. The information provided in the book can be used in the manner intended, but it also carries the capability to be misused. While this is an unfortunate consequence, it is important that people have the information so that they can protect themselves and their families.
There are many situations where it is acceptable to spy upon loved ones, especially when they are placing themselves and your family at risk. In many cases the decision to spy or not to spy is not black and white. There are also some clear lines that never should be crossed. Before any spying should occur several questions should be asked:
It is very important to start off with a clear target, and be aware of whom you can ethically and legally spy upon. We feel that this is quite clear; for instance, if the person that you want to spy on is not your spouse or one of your kids, then you probably shouldn’t be spying on him. This would be stalking. Current technology makes it very easy for people to stalk individuals and prey upon them. There is a wealth of publicly available information that is accessible via the Internet. People can look up phone numbers and quickly get a map to another person’s residence. Many instant messaging programs allow for buddy lists to be set up, and it is possible to get a message when a buddy logs in/or out, or any other range of activities. It is very easy and sometimes tempting to use this technology to spy on an individual, but if that individual is not your spouse, or your kids, then you are stalking. This is completely wrong and illegal.
The reasons behind the decision to spy must be examined to determine their validity. If the spying is undertaken simply because it is easier than discussing the issues, then the spying should not happen. There will be many reasons for spying upon loved ones, and many people will justify their actions. The reasons for spying must be examined carefully. In every relationship there will be conflict and secrets that must be worked through. Often it is easier to ignore the issues and avoid dealing with them. Spying is one way to avoid difficult discussions and issues, but doing so is not a good solution.
In order to protect love ones, spying upon them must achieve certain goals. The objective is to find out enough information to answer difficult questions such as, Does my daughter have an eating disorder? Is my husband pursuing an extramarital affair? It is tempting to get a better view of what someone is thinking by examining his or her communications with outside parties. The technology for spying can be used to determine what the husband is e-mailing to a family friend; however, it can also be used to see what he is saying to his boss. It is very easy to extend the scope of spying beyond what is needed to all aspects of someone’s life. If the information collected is not intended to protect loved ones but is instead used to intrude on their lives, then the spying should not occur.
Spying upon people’s online activities involves using the computer that they would use to go about their activities. This places a burden upon the person doing the spying as he or she must access that computer. Many people use a variety of computers during the course of the day to do their online activities. Thus, your children may use the computers at school to check their e-mail and the family computer at home in the evening to chat and “fool around.” A husband could use his computer at work to coordinate his affair. Despite this, the only computers that should be spied upon are the family computer. It is acceptable to do whatever is needed on the family computer because it is the family’s computer. Placing spy tools upon a child’s computer at school or a spouse’s office computer is acting outside of acceptable ranges. If the spy tools were to be discovered upon the work computer of school computer, whoever put them there could be put at legal risk. Spying should be done only on the home computer.
There are no easy answers in life, and most decisions involving emotions are not cut and dried. It is easy to make rash decisions and to persuade oneself that certain actions are justifiable. Being able to justify answers does not make them correct. Attempting to spy on someone who is not a member of your family, should never be done. Placing spy technology upon machines that are not owned by the family is also out of bounds. Misusing technology to collect information from third parties would also be wrong. Technology allows for an individual to hold a vast amount of power, but this power should not be misused. It would be tempting to use spying as a window into a loved one’s life; however, this decision should not be made lightly, and only as a last resort.
In order to illustrate some of the major issues we will deal with we felt it appropriate to include several case studies. All of these are based on real people and situations that we have either heard about our encountered ourselves. Facts, names, jobs, and locations have been changed to protect the identities of those involved. While they may seem only allegorical, they serve to drive home the point that the issues and dangers we discuss are real, and that, sometimes, spying will help you out.
Computers have become one of the most useful communications mechanisms we have. As a result they silently participate and document the many events in our lives. Without discrimination they stoically take part in our adventues of love and hate, happiness and sadness. In this story a CIA historian finds evidence of his wife’s infidelity due to her computes accidental disclosure.
“Chris” and “Kelly” were a pair of CIA historians. They met while working together at the agency. During their career they spent a lot of time together working side by side. For many couples this can be the kiss of death; for Chris and Kelly, it made their relationship stronger. The time at work was just more time spent together, which in their minds was just wonderful.
As time went on and the years passed Kelly decided she had career goals of being something other than a historian. It was the late nineties and the dot-com boom was in full swing, paper millionaires were popping up all over the place. For a couple on government salaries in the expensive Washington, D.C. area this was an incredible draw. Kelly left her job at the agency to take a job as a Web developer for a small start-up with long hours, hard work, and hopefully a huge financial reward.
Chris was completely supportive of Kelly’s career change. Although he missed having his wife and best friend with him all day, he was excited about the prospect of them becoming wealthy, retiring young, and traveling the world together. He knew her crazy work schedule would be rough and they wouldn’t have all of the relationship-building time they were used to, but this job was just temporary really. They were going to be smart about it; after the IPO and her stock vested, Kelly vowed to leave and spend the rest of her time with her husband basking in the wealth of their Internet millions. Things would be tough for a little bit, but the result would be worth it.
So right away Kelly went from the easy forty-hour-a-week government job to the frenetic pace of a sixty-plus-hour week at an Internet start-up. She liked the job, she liked the work, and she looked forward to the pot of gold at the end of the IPO rainbow. Her office had a great fun environment, free food, free meals, even a place to sleep. Kelly knew somewhere inside that it was all a clever ruse, all of this just to convince employees to stay at work, but she believed. They were all in it together, weren’t they? The more they worked, the richer they would be. So Kelly dove into her work. She worked hard at work, often late into the night, and when she wasn’t at work, she was still working, or at least thinking about it.
Then right around the year 2000 things started to change. Apparently, the venture capitalists were unhappy at the lack of profit. The company was losing money, and at the risk of losing its funding, Kelly’s boss “Jon” made a valiant effort to rally his employees. Yes times were hard, but they were going to change the way people lived their lives. They needed to dig in, work harder, and persevere. When Jon spoke people wanted to believe him. He was like Tom Cruise in Jerry McGuire, handsome, charismatic, and to too many of his employees, a visionary. When he smiled at you and asked in his very sincere voice to dig in and work harder, you wanted to work; you saw he believed in the company, and it made you want to believe.
Not wanting to let Jon or her coworkers down, Kelly started to work even harder. If a twelve-hour day wasn’t enough, she’d have to do a fourteen, a sixteen, eighteen, or twenty if necessary. She couldn’t let everyone down; she couldn’t spoil the vision. Chris had been supportive the entire time, but now he was beginning to wonder if Kelly had made the right choice. He had always admired her ambition and work ethic, but she was becoming a different person than the woman he knew and loved. Yes, they wanted a good life, but at what cost? He realized that they hadn’t been as happy as they were since the time they had worked together at the agency. One night, Chris asked his wife to quit her job and come back to work with him. Instead of the expected response, he was met with outrage. “Did he realize what she was working on?,” “Didn’t he want to retire early, want a nice house, want to be rich,” “I work my butt off for us and that’s all the thanks I get” were the responses he got. Kelly, angry and upset, stormed out of the house and went to the place she where she could at least get something done while she cooled down, her office.
When she got in, it was almost one o’clock in the morning and the place was empty, except for one office, Jon’s. Kelly decided to drop in and say hi. Jon definitely looked like he had seen better days. He looked tired, had circles under his eyes, needed to shave, and there were coffee cups and fast food wrappers everywhere. “Well how’s it going Kelly?” he asked, and like a waterfall she opened up and let flow everything—how she was tired and stressed and overworked, and worse, how the one man whom she thought really understood her didn’t. After hearing it all Jon nodded his head and agreed; he knew what it was like. He was going through the same thing; in fact, his wife had just gone on an extended visit to stay with her mom. Some people just couldn’t understand; he guessed. If you’re not in this company, you just can’t get it. Kelly couldn’t disagree with him and couldn’t pull herself out of his office. She stayed there for another hour just talking with him, feeling close to someone for the first time in months. What happened next can be left to the reader’s imagination, but that night was the beginning of the affair.
After that night work took on a new meaning for Kelly. It was still her job, and still something she loved and believed in, but it was also a chance for her to see Jon. Over the next three months they met repeatedly. Kelly was always wary of discovery by her husband even though she was very cautious. They only met away from other people who knew them, they didn’t talk more than normal at the office, and most important, Jon was never to call her at home. E-mail and instant messaging became their preferred method of communication since it was quiet and effective.
While Kelly’s life was picking up, Chris’s was getting worse. He had felt distant from her since she had started her new job. Now their sex life was suffering, too. They hadn’t been together in over two months. Chris was beginning to wonder if all those jokes about marriage were true. He knew Kelly spent a lot of time at work, but he couldn’t fathom her cheating. But she was staying even later now, sometimes not even coming home, and she didn’t seem to mind. She didn’t want to talk about what went on as much anymore either; she was either too busy, or “didn’t want to think about it right now.”
Right then the phone rang. She closed the instant messaging window and ran out to get the phone. When she picked up the phone she heard Tom’s voice (her friend and Chris’s carpool partner). “Hey, Kelly, we haven’t talked in a while; how are things going?”
Meanwhile Chris had finished his shower. He heard Kelly on the phone in the other room and though wondered who it was, walked into the bedroom to get his clothes. Passing by the computer, he glanced and saw an instant messaging window sitting there:
That moment Kelly walked into the room, “Hey Chris that was Tom he won’t be able to make it …oh no,” she noticed Chris was staring at her computer. Once again the details are left to the reader. But this was the moment of clarity for Chris, where he learned that his wife was having an affair. It explained a lot to him. Everything he had feared but dismissed had just been proven on her computer screen.
So a divorce ensued. It was amicable, or at least as much as a divorce can be. Chris and Kelly sold the house, divided the proceeds and each went their separate ways. It could have been much worse, but the situation had set the tone. Virginia, where they both lived is a state that is very tough on the adultery laws, and Chris now had proof of it. He wouldn’t owe Kelly anything above and beyond what they had accumulated together. The settlements were fair, but could have been much worse for Chris had he not learned about what was happening and prepared himself for this scenario.
Chris found out about Kelly’s infidelity due to a simple slip up. Had she locked her screen he may never have been the wiser. But due to a little low-tech computer snooping, he was able to figure out what was going on. Chris probably never would have looked at Kelly’s screen, if he hadn’t already been suspicious. He had come from the CIA, he understood the value of personal privacy. However he felt something was wrong, and he looked for clues wherever he could. Kelly’s affair was very typical, it occurred at work, and with someone she spent a lot of time and was under a lot of pressure with. She didn’t meet her partner on the Internet but she did use it as a communication mechanism. She had thought it would be safer than the phone, and when she rushed off in fear that the protocol was broken, she made her fatal mistake. Chris didn’t employ elaborate technical measures to spy on Kelly; he didn’t need them. His senses and other clues led him to know something was wrong, and his casual observation gave him all the evidence he needed. The moment he typed back in response to the instant messages, he crossed the line. At that point he very well could have been answering to any one of Kelly’s friends for any reason. If he had been wrong, the relationship still might have ended, with his spying giving Kelly a perfect excuse to drop him. So all in all spying is a serious and dangerous game. The consequences are almost always high. It is definitely something that each person must understand and be prepared for all outcomes.
This chapter served as an explanation of the book and an introduction into the world of spying to discover your family’s secret lives. It discussed many of the possible illicit and somewhat scary activities they can become involved with online. We also approached several of the ethical issues and scenarios where spying may not be the most appropriate action. So far we’ve covered the following important concepts:
We present our definition of snooping and straying. These are the fact that most people are inherently curious about their loved ones, and that many people have a tendency to occasionally visit their dark sides.
People are still people and do the same activities they always have, cheating, gambling, lying, abusing drugs … and so on. Now they have the power of the Internet to enable their activites, and put them in touch with new partners in crime.
When dealing with spouses, infidelity, financial security, liability and multiple identities are all scenarios that may have a significant Internet component. When any of these are suspected it may be time to examine computer usage.
The case study shows how the Internet played a part in one person’s affair. It also showcased how technical measures allowed the cheated partner to discover what was happening, and prevail in a court of law.
Hopefully this chapter has brought to light the many potential issues involved with spying on your family. The following chapters will take you first through some of the psychology and concepts behind spying, and then the mechanics of it. Keep in mind the many dangers and rewards involved and proceed with caution, you may learn more than you ever wanted to know.
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