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Cyberstalking gets scary

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Police in the US are gearing themselves up for an increase in serious cyberstalking. A new report has identified a new type of obsessive who relies on the anonymity of the Internet to wreak havoc on victims' lives. Perhaps naively, this reporter did not view cyberstalking as that serious a crime. But with the point conceded that anonymity can be found through the Internet, its abuse is limited only by an individual's sick imagination.

One case in particular highlights the potential threat. A Hollywood security guard, Gary Delapenta, grew obsessed with a woman, but when she rejected him, sought revenge on the Web. He posed on a newsgroup as a young woman with sado-masochistic rape fantasies and then entered the woman's address as his own.

At least six men tried to break into her house. Delapenta was tracked down by the woman's father, also over the Internet, and he was caught and sentenced to six years in jail. In another case, a university student hacked into the central computer and lowered the grades of five women. He then sent threatening emails and death threats through anonymous accounts.

While these may be isolated incidents - and certainly fit the blueprint for blinkered hysteria - the non-accountability of the Internet is an ideal breeding ground for darker elements of society. Let's hope the authorities manage to keep up with evolving technology. ®

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