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The Internet: The Promise and the Perils
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A Crime By Any Other Name...

Gene Howland and Daniel Glynn Van Deusen
Gene Edward Howland, 41, and Daniel Glynn Van Deusen, 26, have stained the world of the Internet with a sordid and unlawful use of anonymity: child pornography and abuse. Through their “Lifestyles” bulletin board service (BBS), this Houston, Texas, duo — who operated under the pseudonyms “Poo Bear” and “Wild One” and had been dealing in child pornography for years — serviced more than 1,000 subscribers, many of them teen-agers from the Houston area. According to local law enforcement authorities, the BBS contained graphic sex stories and images.

Using the bulletin board, they lured two boys, ages 14 and 15, to their home. The teen-agers said they went to meet Howland and Van Deusen because “[they] were curious.” But when they arrived, according to authorities, they were assaulted and forced to commit homosexual acts with “ Poo Bear” and “ Wild One” against their will.

“They felt like they didn’t have any choice — these men were bigger and stronger than they were,” said Detective Robert Schoener of the Alvin Police Department near Houston. Van Deusen says he starred in 19 homosexual adult films under the pseudonym “Todd Fuller.”

Both men were indicted on March 11 on charges of sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault and indecency with a child, and are in custody. Police also confiscated massive amounts of materials depicting unlawful and abusive acts involving children and animals.

“Child molesters don’t hang around candy stores and playgrounds anymore,” Schoener said. “They’re finding kids through computers.”

Justin Tanner Peterson: Agent Steal

Justin Tanner Peterson, aka “Agent Steal,” is one of the more recent cases of a hacker demonstrating his ability to use computers and the Internet to seize control of telephones and break into government computers. But before the Internet, he was using his ability with computers for every possible means to the end of unlawful personal gain.

Peterson often spoke of his undercover work to help the FBI and other agencies bring down outlaw hackers. He had even helped police locate the incriminating files stashed by Kevin Poulsen. (See “Kevin Poulsen: Hacker for the Dark Side,”.) But earlier, he had bragged of working with Poulsen to pull off his computerized break-ins at Pacific Bell headquarters — the same ones which led to Poulsen’s downfall.

In 1991, he was picked up by police for possession of a stolen vehicle. The police investigation led to him facing an eight-count federal indictment — assuming false names, accessing a computer without authorization, possessing stolen mail and fraudulently obtaining and using credit cards.

But the case was transferred to California before it could ever get off the ground, and then sealed, based upon the representation that Peterson was “acting in an undercover capacity” with the federal government.

Peterson eventually pleaded guilty to six counts and faced a sentence of 40 years in jail and a $1.5 million fine. The sentencing, however, was repeatedly put off, and Peterson roamed free on bail, presumably still on government assignment. Unwittingly, the government had given the duplicitous Peterson the opportunity to commit further crimes.

In late 1993, a government attorney asked Peterson if he had been committing crimes while on bail. According to the attorney, Peterson responded that he had.

Shortly thereafter, Peterson told a friend, “I’ve got a big problem and I’m splitting,” and disappeared the same day.

According to authorities, Peterson’s “big problem” included breaking into computers used by federal investigative agencies and a credit card information bureau. He also allegedly possessed more than 40 passwords to “secure” computers.

Peterson spent nearly a year on the run, but was apprehended in late 1994 after a foot-chase when he was spotted getting out of a BMW just two blocks from the FBI’s West Los Angeles office. Weeks before his arrest, Peterson said in a telephone interview, “I wouldn’t want the powers I have to be in the wrong hands, someone with malicious intentions.”

Apparently, they already were.

On March 27, Peterson pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles to charges of conspiring to cause an illegal $150,000 wire-transfer. He is being held without bail and faces up to 60 years in jail and $2 million in fines.

These are examples of crimes committed in the computer world by the lawless few exploiting the well-intentioned many. The damage done by those few is extensive and irreparable. But the examples here serve to debunk the myth that people who are caught breaking the law on the Internet are merely guilty of “Internet crimes.’ In truth, these people are simply criminals who see the Internet as the newest arena for their illegalities.

The child pornographer who seeks new children to exploit, the prodigious criminal who “fixes” a radio contest, the child and wife abuser who turns to misappropriating copyrighted works — all have shown continuing flagrant disregard for the law and have simply moved their activities onto the information superhighway in their mistaken belief that they would not be held accountable.

Criticism of those who ask that customary law be followed on the Internet is puzzling when viewed in the context of incidents such as those above. When there is armed robbery at a bank, the usual response is not to attack the police who enforce the law or the law that makes bank robbery illegal.

The fact is that the laws apply and protect us all — on the computer, and off. Computer authorities agree that hard-core computer criminals such as Mitnick may never have been brought to justice had citizens not given assistance to law enforcement. Such cooperation is essential to creating a safe computer world where outlaws find no haven.

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