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Department of Homeland Security Offers Info on Cyberthreats

The Department of Homeland Security offers help for people like Rebecca Rose who recently filed a complaint to Trenton police after allegedly being harassed by a neighbor on Facebook.

A national study found that 96 percent of Americans surveyed feel a personal responsibility to be safe and secure online, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

Count Rebecca Rose among those who wish to be safe and secure online.

Rose, 45, recently to the Trenton Police Department that her neighbor in the 200 block of Detroit Street had been harassing her on Facebook.

Her neighbor, Jennifer Petkov, 33, made national headlines after she admitted to of Rose’s daughter and granddaughter and posting them on Facebook in 2010.

The photos depicted Rose’s late daughter, Laura Edwards, and Laura’s daughter—Rose’s granddaughter—Kathleen Edwards, 8, being embraced by the grim reaper and in a skull and crossbones.

Kathleen suffers from Huntington’s disease, which is the same disease that took her mother Laura’s life in June 2009.

To prevent actions like this from taking place, the Department of Homeland Security has begun “working with the public and private sector to promote cybersecurity and leading the effort to engage and educate Americans to help them understand the importance of online safety” in October 2010.

“Whether it’s protecting ourselves from identity theft and cybercrime or protecting the nation from a cyberattack, we all must share the responsibility of promoting a safer cyberspace,” according to the Department of Homeland Security website.

“It’s important that all Americans, adults and children alike, do their part to ensure that cyberspace is a safe and secure environment for all Internet users,” Scott McConnell, a DHS spokesman, said.

Rose said the most destructive part of cyberbullying is how difficult it is to prove the harassment is coming from a certain source. She said she believes this may be why some people commit suicide after constant cyberbullying.

“There are days that I just want to go to sleep and never wake up and not only do I have a dead daughter, I have never been able to grieve because Jennifer (Petkov) started in the minute she died,” Rose said.

McConnell said there are a number of ways people can protect themselves from cyberbullying and online threats.

  • Accept friend requests only from people you know and trust.
  • Limit access to your personal information.
  • Notify the appropriate authorities if you are being harassed.

Rose has three personal protection orders against Petkov and according to an article in The Detroit News, Trenton Police Chief William Lilienthal said neighbors have complained that Petkov has been recently spotted in her house.

Petkov was ordered to move out of the house after she after she allegedly tried to run a different neighbor over with her car.

“She’s still coming and going as she pleases,” Rose said.

Lilienthal said the case was under investigation and declined to comment further.

A recent article about Rose’s situation became popular and hundreds of people began commenting on the story and offering advice. Some people suggested that Rose shut down her Facebook account; however, Rose said shutting down her account would be like letting the cyberbully win.

Rose said she has already significantly reduced the number of visits Kathleen makes to her house each month in order to better protect her from what is going on and because of her declining health.

“She used to come over three to four days a week,” Rose said.

She added that Kathleen’s father restricts her from many forms of media to protect her from learning about her own story online or on the news. Right now she knows very little of the story that made national news and Rose said she intends to keep it that way.

“She really is an angel,” Rose said. “She doesn’t do anything wrong. She has a smile that could stop a war.”

For more information on ways to prevent cyberbullying and cyberharassment visit www.us-cert.gov or www.stopbullying.gov.

Jane June 22, 2011 at 11:52 AM
This is terrible. And it seems like the law doesn't do near enough to help the innocent victims. More needs to be done to protect the good people. It really ticks me off...
Lisa Plasky June 22, 2011 at 04:34 PM
You're absolutely right, Jane! The violators have more rights than the victims. After being impersonated by numerous fake accounts on facebook by impostors using my true name and actual photos taken from my real facebook profile, I recently started fresh and opened a new account. Only when I tried to use the account, I received a message that I would need to verify my identity in the form of a "mobile phone" number or a "credit card number" before I could proceed. When I attempted to use the "mobile phone" verification method, I received an error message that my phone number had already been used in an attempt to validate another account. I had never used my phone number to verify an account - had never been asked to. I then used the "credit card" verification method by linking my facebook account with my credit card account, then once the verification process was complete I deleted my credit card info. I am the real "me", however numerous fake profiles were able to carry on pretending to be me, obviously with no need to prove their claimed identity. I still receive backlash and imagine I will for quite some time for the activities of these fake accounts. Attempts to uncover the true identity of impostors and the email addresses used to open fake accounts are blocked by privacy rights and freedom of speech. Just exactly what are MY rights?
Lisa Plasky June 22, 2011 at 05:05 PM
Truer words were never spoken: "Rose said the most destructive part of cyberbullying is how difficult it is to prove the harassment is coming from a certain source. She said she believes this may be why some people commit suicide after constant cyberbullying." Even the Department of Homeland Security will, if asked, acknowledge the difficulty in proving the "source". While the Department of Homeland Security has offered tips on how to minimize your chances of being bullied, hopefully they can come up with some surefire methods of catching the actual bullies or things like this will only continue.
than nguyen June 22, 2011 at 10:21 PM
Absolutely, people need to whatever it takes to protect themselves. Many people do not realize that standard email messages are often transmitted in plain text over the internet without any form of encryption and is an inherently an insecure medium. As a result, anyone can intercept the emails and easily access its contents, including any attachments. A good email encryption solution will use powerful cryptography techniques to ensure your messages are both stored and transmitted securely, and that only you and your recipients have the capability to decrypt your message data. If you need to send emails with confidential data, use this free email encryption form to send secure encrypted emails at https://www.sendinc.com/
Lauren Avancena January 13, 2012 at 09:24 PM
The Department of Homeland Security CAN pinpoint a source of a computer post. Don't let them fool you. I personally would not allow a neighbor to get away with it. If I knew where they lived it wouldn't happen twice.

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