Hacker targets woman
A Turkish hacker is attacking Nelson woman Becky Siame over the web - but net safety experts say there's not much she can do about it.
A web developer and author, Ms Siame posted a job on Freelancer.com earlier this month, and started working with the Turkish man on a new website she was building. The deal turned sour when it became clear he didn't know what he was doing, she said.
They entered arbitration through Freelancer.com, which she won on August 17.
The day after, the man started threatening her. He sent her sexually and verbally abusive messages, threatened to defame her and ruin her career, and listed her website on a Turkish master hacker's site. She has recorded more than 3500 attempts to break into it. He also used her name and photo to create a sexually derogatory page on Facebook and sent a message around her contacts saying she was a sex worker and was available for $200.
"I had to send them all a message saying: ‘Ignore that message; I assure you, I'd charge a lot more'," she said. "I'm laughing but there are times I'm shaking when I'm so upset about what's happening."
Ms Siame and her friends spent days bombarding Facebook with reports, but it initially said the page did not violate its community standards on bullying and harassment.
The page was removed late yesterday when the Nelson Mail inquired. Ms Siame was disappointed it had taken that long.
"For all their conversation about cyber-bullying and protection they actually don't seem to care much about it."
Ms Siame said the man still knew her home address and she received "disgusting" abusive messages daily, from different addresses. "He knows I'm a single mum alone with children and that's probably feeding why he thinks he can get away with this.
"I'm just waiting to see what turns up in my mailbox." She was also angry at Freelancer.com, which was conducting an "investigation" but the man's profile remained up while they did so.
"By their inaction, there is other work that he's bidding on and being chosen for, and others are at risk."
Police had told her she couldn't report it until he made actual physical threats against her. "I'm a web developer, I'm a savvy woman. What's being done to protect everyday Joe Blogger?"
Facebook did not respond to a request for comment.
Australian-based Freelancer.com has apologised to Ms Siame for not taking action straight away.
It has removed the man's account, offered her three months of free premium membership, and told her it would be reporting the man to the appropriate authorities.
Ms Siame said she was very happy with the response.
"They have really come through for me."
However, she said the man was still sending hundreds of abusive emails, which she had stopped checking. She had started a Facebook support page: facebook.com/imbeingcyberbullied. She hoped to build it into a community.
"It is my hope that on this page they can share their stories and other web-savvy followers can give advice on what to do and how to protect themselves, or contact the relevant authorities en mass," she said.
A spokeswoman for Freelancer.com said it could not comment on individual members' cases.
Nelson internet safety consultant John Parsons said there was "no fix" for anonymous cyber bullying. "If that person was in front of us we would be able to take some legal action against them but it's a jurisdictional nightmare.
"Always gather good evidence: date, time, location, record it somewhere secure because at some time in the future if it gets worse, there may be an opportunity to have something done about it." Telecommunications Users' Association of New Zealand chief executive Paul Brislen said Facebook was "particularly poor" at harassment issues unless complainants had "a phalanx of lawyers" behind them.
"They really couldn't care less. We're not the customers, we're the product. We've seen harassment and cyber-bullying on Facebook and Twitter and pretty much nothing happens."
He said people should also be wary of who they encounter on e-lancing sites like Freelancer.com. "I've seen people signing up for it and pretty much nothing good happening from it."
He said victims could talk to the Privacy Commissioner, the police, and Netsafe if the initial appeal to the company didn't work, and persevere with complaints.
"If you can demonstrate there's cyber bullying going on Facebook should be able to respond. It's the first line of any robotic response and so she has to persevere."
- © Fairfax NZ News