Accolades on My Master’s Program

Utica College:
Master’s Degree in Computer Forensics and CyberSecurity

From my professors:

Outstanding paper on cyber bullying. This is not only one of the best in the class, but one of the most thorough and historical accounts on the subject that I have read.

Jeff, You absolutely nailed this discussion forum. Your response to the discussion prompt was thorough and analytical, showed great creativity, and was supported by high-quality, properly cited sources. Your proposal of the strict BYOD policy in particular shows that you are “in tune” with current trends in cybersecurity. Keep up the good work.

Jeff, Fantastic job in this discussion forum. As I mentioned in the discussion itself, it can be easy to lose sight of the fact that the Internet is a physical thing that is subject to damage, and not just a virtual, ethereal concept. You also went above and beyond the assignment requirements in responding to your classmates, and cited your sources well. Keep it up.

Such a great submission. In addition to correctly addressing all assignment requirements, the inclusion of all of the photographs added a nice touch. Great work and no issues to report. I really liked how you tied the date to national and historical events; that’s a first!

Well written presentation, correctly addressing all aspects of the assignment; verification via hashing, as well as discovery of hidden message due to font color change. No issues to report.

Excellent presentation. In addition to correctly summarizing each of the terms in-depth you correctly completed the hashing exercise. I have yet to ever have a student examine the HTML so that was really cool. Nice work and be sure to retain this presentation for future reference.

Excellent presentation or report; I can’t tell! Comprehensive and accurate summary of computer forensics evidence presented, as well as the grandmother’s testimony and how it conflicted with her work schedule. Nice inclusion of screen shots, as well as identification of NetAnalysis and CacheBack; you clearly articulated the issues that occurred with the returned results generated by the forensics tools. In short, the evidence was there but in my opinion, the technical challenges presented by the defense brought the validity of the evidence into question.

Excellent submission. I really liked how you identified and labeled all of the discovered devices within the photograph; very professional and easy to follow. Computer handling procedures were spot on and the supporting photographs were very helpful.

The step by step procedural detail was excellent! The supporting photographs and detail left no room for speculation. I could easily identify the specific remote, as well as the specific batteries. Excellent work and no issues to report.

Excellent presentation and supporting documentation provided through email. All assignment requirements were addressed in depth and correctly. Nice work and no issues to report.

Rutgers University: 
miniMBA Master’s: Social Media Marketing 

“Jeff, this is great work! You’ve done a wonderful job outlining your plan. It’s very realistic and I love the logic and targeting information you’ve built into it. …in terms of your strategy, everything looks solid. Nice work!”

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Meta Descriptions of Colleges

When revving up the Googler and searching for colleges, the browser shows a snippet of information it gleans from the site’s source code. This is the meta description that is embedded in the website’s HTML code.

Ideally, that information should be no more than 160 characters. It can be longer, but it will be truncated and after the limit has been reached, it ends with dot-dot-dot. See this link from Moz for a better explanation:

A random sampling of university meta descriptions returns a mixed bag of results. Some of them seem well-considered (University of Michigan) and some do not (University of Iowa).

Below is sampling from colleges and universities I randomly searched for in the US, Canada, South Africa and the UK.

If you were searching for colleges and this is the first thing you found out about a particular institution, would you click through?

University of Michigan
(check out the big M in source code!)

University of Michigan<meta name=”description” content=”A top-ranked public university, the University of Michigan has a tradition of excellence in research, learning and teaching, sports and the arts, and more.” />

University of Iowa
The University of Iowa Museum of Art has been without a building since the flood … the help of the University of Iowa will have its world premiere at the American …

University of Montana
Located in Missoula, Montana, the University of Montana is a place where top-tier students, educators and researchers from across the country and around the …

University of Oregon
Oregon’s flagship institution tucked into the scenic Willamette Valley.

Valdosta State
We are a place where all doors are open and you will never feel invisible. Consider the next four years your launching pad. Whatever your goals, Valdosta State …

Mississippi State
At Mississippi State University, we are a world-class research institution. We think inclusively and beyond the boundaries to encourage boldness, imagination …

Savannah College of Art and Design
Visit SCAD. Experience. Calendar · Facilities … SCADTV · Student portfolios · Give. © 2017 (SCAD) Savannah College of Art and Design. Careers Legal Sitemap.

University of Florida
One university. The Gator Good is our campaign to combine those efforts and solve those global problems. Because together, our impact is greater. Learn More.

University of Houston
Located near the heart of Houston, this public, tier one research university offers over 300 degrees and programs and award-winning faculty.

University of Alberta
The University of Alberta is a Top 5 Canadian university located in Edmonton, Alberta, and home to nearly 40000 students in a wide variety of programs. Visit the …

University of Idaho
The University of Idaho, based in the Northwest, is a leading research school, providing majors and degrees for graduate and undergraduate students.

University of Cincinnati
The University of Cincinnati, founded in 1819, offers success by providing a balance of academic excellence, real-world experience and collaborative research.

University of Texas
Like the state it calls home, The University of Texas at Austin is a bold, ambitious leader, home to more than 51000 students and 3000 teaching faculty.

University of Liverpool
For the advancement of learning and ennoblement of life since 1881.

University of Denver
The oldest and largest private university in the Rocky Mountain region, DU offers innovative and rigorous undergraduate, graduate and professional programs.

University of Akron
With more than 250 degree programs, UA is one of the nation’s strongest public universities focused on innovation, entrepreneurship and economic growth.

University of Southampton
Study at the University of Southampton, ranked among the top 1% of universities worldwide. A research-led founding member of the prestigious Russell Group.

University of Pretoria
University of Pretoria is 1 of the top research institutions in Africa and their mission is to be an internationally recognised teaching & research university.

SUNY Oswego
RT @artswego: My Hometown Banner exhibit opens at #sunyoswego’s Tyler Art Gallery @ Oswego StateDowntown this Fri, June 23; rece… …

Iowa State
Iowa State University is the nation’s most student-centered public research university. 100 majors. 800 clubs. 1 amazing adventure.

Binghamton University
Binghamton University: top-rated public research center; SUNY system; located in upstate New York; 15300+ students; 140+ undergrad/grad programs offered.

Siena College
Siena College is more than a liberal arts college—it is a learning community that prepares students for a successful life filled with compassion and drive, service .

Florida State University
FSU, designated a preeminent university in the state of Florida, is one of the most respected research and learning institutions in the country.

Lynchburg College
Lynchburg College offers opportunities for life through engaging undergraduate and graduate programs. It will adopt the name University of Lynchburg in 2018.

Roanoke College
College isn’t just four more years of school; it sets you on the path for the life you want to lead. At Roanoke College we think the world needs people with passion

UNC Charlotte alumna Melissa Farling, a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, has devoted her career to investigating the effects of architecture on …

Randolph College
Randolph College is a nationally recognized private liberal arts and sciences college, located in beautiful Lynchburg, VA, focused on you the student.

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Cyberbullying: Crime or Hysteria?

Cyberbullying is a new twist on an old problem. There have always been bullies—people who were stronger—or thought they were—would harass the weaker ones. Sometimes it was for retribution or just to humiliate their victim.

(I wrote this as a research project for my Master’s in Cybersecurity and Computer Forensics at Utica College in 2014).

Bullying (and cyberbullying) cross all age, gender and socio-economic groups and is not isolated to any particular geographic area. Bullies use whatever means available to them. In the “pre-connected” times, bullies would ambush their victims in the playgrounds, in the streets, or even in Congress. Bullying can take many forms: verbal assaults, threats, or physical violence. The intended result of bullying is to force one’s will onto others. However, it is up to the victim (unless under physical attack) to decide whether to live in fear of the bully or to take counter-measures.

Bullies are experts at leveraging technology and identifying people, or groups of people, to launch their attacks on. Throughout American history there have been many accounts of bullying. Racial and ethnic injustice is bullying, for example. The American Indians were bullied out of their homelands. The Irish were bullied out of job opportunities. The Japanese-Americans were bullied out of their own homes during World War II and even after they returned to society (“Congress urged to pass anti-bullying bill,” n.d.). The list is endless. Most of these bullying actions were in the form of verbal assaults and government edict. The bullies and their victims were easily identifiable and the tactics and “reasons” behind them were well understood by all.

With the invention of the telephone, they took to the wire and bullied people via phone and later even by Ham radio. The Ham radio group “Hamsexy” is considered the “bully of the shortwave.” Hamsexy claims their antics are merely meant as jokes, but those on the receiving end do not see it as such. A review of their website ( reveals forum posts and photographs poking fun at people involved in Ham radio. Their antics can be considered bullying or it can be taken for it is—lame attempts at shock humor. It had reached a point to those offended that it required cease and desist letters, and even Twitter movements, to combat these scourges of the airwaves (Shortwave_america, 2011).

Now, we have a new type of bully—one that is purported to be different somehow. The new type of bully is more vicious, more dangerous and more prevalent. It has become an epidemic that will destroy the youth of the world. The new type of bully is the cyberbully. But, should we fall victim to the hysteria? Maybe not.

Bully For You

To understand what bullying—and cyberbullying—is, we first must understand what the terms mean. “Bully” has its origins in the Middle Dutch language of the 1500s, as boel—lover or brother. During these feudal times, a “bully” was one’s sweetheart. It later took on the meaning of “blusterer” and “harasser.” In the 1800s, Thomas Hughes used the term in his novel, Tom Brown’s Schooldays, to describe a student who taunted others (“Old-School Sweetheart to Modern-Day Menace,” n.d.).

Later in that century, President Theodore Roosevelt took the word “bully”—which was the 1800s version of “way cool”—to new heights of popularity. It was another one hundred years before the word “bully” was appended into “cyberbully” to describe a bully who uses technology connected to the Internet, such as social media, texting, email, video, etc. The term traces its origins to 2000, shortly after the massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado. The Christian Science Monitor editorialized about the incident and referenced cyberbullying acts that could be carried out via the newly popular Internet (Arseneau & Contributor, n.d.).

Labels are applied to describe people and their actions throughout history. Often, those labels will change over time, as did “bully.” Labels are also used to excess to describe people. People are reviled as “liberals” or “conservatives” to segregate them into one ideological camp, often meant as form of derision—labelbullying, perhaps. Labels are used so often that the meaning becomes diluted and pedestrian.

Not a day goes by that the media will report on how President Obama is bullying Congress, or Vladimir Putin is bullying Obama, or Congress is bullying Obama, or Harry Reid is bullying Mitch McConnell, and so on. Not everyone can be bullied if everyone is the bully (Dean, 2013). To merely suggest something or express a disagreement or a criticism is all too often seen as a form of bullying. The frequency of events considered to be bullying is different depending on where in the country you are. In New Hampshire, it takes but one instance to be an act of bullying, Nebraska leaves that decision up to the Districts (“Are we too quick to cry ‘bully’?,” n.d.). Even in Canada, bullying is rampant. Dr. Neill Gottheil, a Canadian psychiatrist says that due to the broad meaning of the term every slight or altercation is considered an act of bullying. (Dean, 2013).

Cyberbullying: Real Crime or Mass Hysteria?

Now that bullying has taken root in cyberspace, society has a new, and more virulent, form of the age-old problem. People with bad intentions—criminals and bullies—are very adept at learning to use new technology to their advantage. Hackers have been hacking since computers were invented and abusive personalities have found a new tool to replace their megaphones. Bullies take to cyberspace because they know that they have an easy way to reach their targets—often walking right into the abusers’ line of fire willingly.

Web 2.0—social media—has become a staple of everyday life. Every demographic is hooked and hooked-in. From toddlers to centenarians, every category of the population is tweeting, posting, liking, and commenting on their selfies and updates on their cats’ busy day. The media has been reporting on the perils of cyberbullying for years, and when they do, it is almost exclusively about adolescent girls. That’s not really a surprise, since 81% of Internet-accessing tween girls use social media compared to only 72% of the rest of the population. Tween girls thrive on social interaction, and social media gives them a perfect platform to interact with their friends—and their bullies. When it comes to social media choices, the video-heavy channels are favored. YouTube is, by far, the most popular with a following of 45%, followed by Facebook at 15%, Instagram at 10%, and Twitter at only 8%. Instagram is favored by 23% of girls aged 8-12. One of the pitfalls of the visual sites is the rise in narcissism. 33% of tween girls report that “being famous” was important to them. Using visual sites, such as Instagram, gives these girls a perfect vehicle to launch their quest for stardom (Fashion, 2014).

Using these sites is voluntary. Although COPPA restricts social media usage to those above the age of 13, the anonymity and complacency/complicity of parents allows girls (and boys) of any age to log on and start sharing. Amazingly, many parents will help their youngsters set up social media accounts and then just walk away. The social media sites, and any age-restricted sites, certainly don’t help in enforcing these regulations. It is a simple matter to make up a false birthdate and log right in. A test conducted on, a beer site, showed that by entering the obviously fraudulent birthdate of May 11, 1877, access is granted, no verification needed. Age-verification on the Internet is a farce. 22% of 8- 12-year-olds who use the Internet have a Facebook profile, despite COPPA regulations. There is not much point in creating regulations and enacting laws if there are no real ways to enforce them. There are age-verification products available, such as Aristotle Integrity’s ID-Direct, that uses challenge-based questions and a database of 3.4 billion citizens (, which would help mitigate this problem.

These children become ideal victims for stalkers, pedophiles, identity thieves, and cyberbullies. With very little oversight from regulators or by the children’s parents, the criminals can have a field day in social media tormenting their victims who either do not know they are being victimized or simply do not care. As heinous as stalking or identity theft is, cyberbullying is an insidious activity that builds over time, sometimes without the victim’s realization until it is too late and the victim has reached the breaking point. Much like putting a toad in a pot of water and turning up the heat a degree at a time, the “toad” doesn’t know it’s being boiled until the damage is done.

What is the damage done by cyberbullies and just who are they and why do they do such horrible things? Cyberbullying can start as a simple prank or a one-shot “gotcha” directed at someone with no real harmful intent. It can also be an orchestrated campaign to humiliate, discredit or warn someone. “CM” is a 19-year-old college student. He was at a party recently when he made a comment to some people about a girl at the party. “Yeah, I knew her in high school, but I think she’s a lesbian.” A stupid, but innocent, comment made during the haze of a late-night gathering. A strange girl confronted CM on campus two weeks later. “If you ever say anything like that about her again, I’m gonna f—ing kill you! I’ve sent your picture to everyone so they know what you look like!” she threatened. Apparently, his picture was distributed through (and lifted from) Facebook. So far, no crime has been committed, but a threat (no matter how empty) had been made. CM had, indeed, been cyberbullied.

Cyberbullying is often considered a tween crisis. Girls just being girls, saying mean things to each other but using the immediacy and the anonymity of social media to spew their venom. “JM,” a 16-year-old high school boy says that “social media is only for 15- 16-year-old girls now; I’ve even deleted my Facebook account; it’s all crap anyway.” CM is also winding down his Facebook presence and taking up online residence on LinkedIn instead. For the most part, cyberbullies and others targeting youths have a small window of opportunity to exploit before they grow tired of these sites and move out of reach.

Emily Osment in Cyberbully

The 2011 movie, Cyberbully, starring Emily Osment, tried to illustrate the awful effects of cyberbullying on 16-year-old “Taylor Hillridge.” Taylor finally convinces her mom to get her a laptop, which she promptly uses to sign on to “Cliquesters,” a version of Facebook. It was fun for a while, until the evil “Lindsey” starting posting innuendo about Taylor. Taylor would reply and complain to her friend, “Samantha,” about how horrible it was. But, she kept on posting. Samantha even created a fake male profile (for some unexplained reason) to further torment Taylor. But, she kept on posting. It all became too much and she attempted suicide by taking sleeping pills. But, she kept on posting. Even after being warned by “Mom,” and betrayed by her friend, Taylor could not kick her addiction to social media, much like a drug addict’s addiction to heroin. In the end, the solution was so simple: join a support group that will give you the courage to stand up to Lindsey and everything will be OK (Binamé, 2011).

Too bad it’s not quite that simple. But, what real harm can come of it? It’s only words on a computer; the computer can be turned off and the account removed, right?

In October 2006, Megan Meier hanged herself. Megan was 13 years old, suffered from attention deficit disorder, depression and low self-esteem due to her weight. She was befriended by “Josh” on MySpace and developed an online relationship with someone she thought liked and respected her. Josh’s posts became more and more cruel, until Megan had had enough and committed suicide. In this case, it wasn’t “girls being girls” but an adult woman, Lori Drew, along with her employee and her own teenage daughter who perpetuated the online assault. Although charged with Computer Abuse and Fraud, Drew was later acquitted and the conviction vacated. Megan’s mother worked to get “Megan’s Law” passed to help mitigate cyberbullying (“Six Unforgettable Cyberbullying Cases,” n.d.).

In another case, 13-year-old Ryan Halligan hanged himself after being cyberbullied through AOL’s instant messenger service. Ryan’s friend-turned-bully began a taunting campaign accusing Ryan of being gay. Ryan then struck up an AOL relationship with a popular girl (or so he thought). The girl and her friends thought it would be funny to perpetuate this faux romance to elicit personal, embarrassing confession from Ryan, which they later shared over instant messenger. Seeing no way out, Ryan committed suicide to end the torment (“Six Unforgettable Cyberbullying Cases,” n.d.)

As tragic as these cases are, suicide was not the solution. In both examples, the children had developmental and emotional challenges. Their tormenters may have pushed their victims, but it was ultimately their choice to take their own lives. The parents, guardians, and counselors should have been on high alert in these cases, knowing how fragile these children were, and monitored their activities more closely.

In another case, cyberbullying was assumed to be the cause of a girl’s suicide. People were arrested and reputations tarnished by the rallying cry of “cyberbully!” Rebecca Sedwick, a 12-year-old Florida girl, jumped to her death in September 2013. Her mother claimed she was bullied on, a popular social media site. A 12-year-old and a 14-year-old girl were charged. It was revealed recently that there was no real evidence to charge these girls and Rebecca’s suicide could have been a result of her depression over a deteriorating relationship with her father. Rebecca’s mother sees it differently, citing Internet searches and deleted accounts as evidence of cyberbullying leading to her daughter’s suicide (Wallace, 2014).

The Cyberbully Industry

As the Sedwick case shows, cyberbullying is not a clear-cut crime. It is all too often used to shirk responsibility or deflect criticism. People, especially adults, will resort to cyberbullying knowing full well what they are doing and using it to their advantage. In 2013, Chef Gordon Ramsey featured Amy’s Baking Company of Scottsdale, Arizona on his reality show, Kitchen Nightmares. Amy and Samy Bouzaglo were tyrannical restaurant owners who abused their customers and ripped off their employees. Their exploits and peculiarities were highlighted on the show and social media was abuzz after it aired. Of course, being bullies in the physical world (“I’m a gangster,” Samy proclaimed), they took to social media themselves. They were taunted and they taunted back. But, what made their counter-counter-cyberbullying unique was that Samy was posting cyberbullying comments against himself to elicit more responses and then denying it (see graphics below).

Some people will claim to be cyberbullies, then claim to be reformed, then be accused of cyberbullying, and the cycle spins out of control. Cyberbullying is considered a cool, new fad, and opportunities abound in exploiting the concept. Chelsea Itson is a good example of claiming the mantle of cyberbully. Chelsea is an Ohio blogger. In 2006, she claimed she took up the hobby of cyberbullying as a way to vent about the passing of her beloved grandfather. She posted nasty things on other people’s blogs to take out her frustration. Then, she felt remorse at all the horrible things she said that, with her husband’s support, she wrote personal apologies to those she had cyberbullied and begged forgiveness. However, the victims had turned on her. She thought she had made up with the real people, even going to a concert with a new friend, but now she was the one being attacked by cyberbullies. Later, Chelsea got a new job. She found “evidence” that her supervisor was sprinkling a defamation website with her name. Chelsea had other cyberbullying problems at work and decided that she was now an expert at victimizing and being victimized that she started her own blog,, to expose the evils of cyberbullying. Was Chelsea really cyberbullied or was she just looking for her 15 minutes of Internet fame? Like a form of Münchausen Syndrome by Proxy, Chelsea instigated the problem and then complained about it and then exploited it, creating her own little Chelsea the Victim industry (Itson, n.d.).

The Chelsea story doesn’t end there. Others have taken her cyberbully-turned-angel story and have created their own anti-Chelsea industry at Not only does this site “expose” Chelsea but also her husband, Ellis. Cyberbullying cuts both ways.


In addition to Chelsea’s cyberbullying enterprise, the anti-Chelsea, Amy and Samy, Emily Osment, etc., there are a myriad websites, books, blogs, and other cause-related entities all jumping on the cyberbully bandwagon. Cyberbullying is a real problem. It has had, and will continue to have, devastating effects on people. Weak-minded people are easily swayed by what is said about them. Someone with low self-esteem may not see any other way out other than suicide. Cyberbullies will continue in their taunting because, as JM said, “it just doesn’t seem real.” By hiding behind a computer from somewhere in Ohio, like Chelsea Itson, the cyberbully can torment from behind a veil of anonymity and distance. Amy and Samy can cyberbully themselves thinking nobody will notice, trite movies like Cyberbully will be made, but Rebecca, Ryan and Megan will still be dead as a result of the perceived threat of cyberbullying. Nobody can be cyberbullied to death. Taking one’s own life is a personal decision. Unless cyberbullying turns into harassment or physical abuse it is, indeed, just words on a computer screen. It’s easy to blame technology on the problems of society, but social media is simply a tool. Tools are used and abused as people see fit. Some day cyberbullying will seem like a quaint notion like the bully in Tom Brown’s Schooldays. The big fear is: what, in the future, will be even worse?


Are we too quick to cry “bully”? (n.d.). CNN. Retrieved from

Arseneau, S., & Contributor, eHow. (n.d.). The History of Cyberbullying. eHow. Retrieved from

Binamé, C. (2011). Cyberbully. Drama.

Congress urged to pass anti-bullying bill. (n.d.). Washington Blade – America’s Leading Gay News Source. Retrieved from

Dean. (2013, October 2). PLEASE STOP OVERUSING THE TERM BULLYING | Edubabbling for the Masses. Edubabbling. Retrieved from

Fashion, P. (2014, January 22). Tweens Go Social: How Kids are Using Social Media. FashionPlaytes Company Blog. Retrieved from

Itson, C. (n.d.). Adult Cyberbullying. OvercomingBullying. Retrieved from

Old-School Sweetheart to Modern-Day Menace: The History of the Word Bully. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Shortwave_america. (2011, November 9). Shortwave America: Radio Amateurs and Cyber Bullying – Part 2. Shortwave America. Retrieved from

Six Unforgettable Cyberbullying Cases. (n.d.). NoBullying. Retrieved from

Wallace, K. (2014, April 21). Police file raises questions about bullying in Rebecca Sedwick’s suicide. CNN. Retrieved from

This report was written as a requirement for the Master’s of Science program in Cybersecurity and Computer Forensics at Utica College in 2014 by Jeff Macharyas, MS

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Email Spam: Since 1844

Samuel F.B. Morse sends the first email spam in 1844
Samuel F.B. Morse sends the first email spam in 1844

I don’t believe in email.

I’m an old-fashioned girl.

I prefer calling and hanging up.”

—Sarah Jessica Parker

It is staggering to think just pervasive email is in our lives. In 2012, there were 2.2 billion email users worldwide, 144 billion email traffic worldwide per day, 68.8% of it spam, and of that, 51% was pharmaceutical spam. 425 million active Gmail accounts worldwide, making it the leading email service (Cook, 2013).

Not only is email everywhere, but it’s been around, in some for, for quite some time. Email was apparently born in 1965. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology created the Compatible Time-Sharing System (CTSS) in 1961, and in 1965, hundreds of users were using the system remotely and sharing data (Van Vleck, 2001).

However, one could really consider the first email to have been sent on May 24, 1844 by Samuel F.B. Morse, whose message “What hath God wrought?” was emailed from the Supreme Court in Washington, DC to Alfred Vail at the B&O Railroad in Baltimore. There does not seem to be a reply, so Morse’s email probably ended up in Vail’s spam folder (Norman, 2015).

You’ve Got Mail.

A pivotal year for email was 1989. In that year, the phrase “Welcome! You’ve Got Mail!” entered our lexicon. It was so ubiquitous that just saying those words would be synonymous with its creator, America Online (AOL). Nine years later, the phrase became a movie starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan (Lew, 2010).

The death of email has been ballyhooed almost as much as the death of publishing. However, email is just as popular as ever, even after discounting spam. There are three times as many email accounts as Twitter or Facebook accounts (although it is likely that people have several email accounts they don’t remember having or use several different ones depending on work, family, social requirements [it would be fair to say that the vast majority of people only have one Twitter or Facebook account if they have any]). Not only is email still popular, it gains in popularity. From 2011 to 2012, email volume rose 5.4% and 79% of people use their smartphones to check email compared to only 43% who use it to make phone calls (Eastman, 2013).

Along with the popularity and usefulness of email comes a dark side. As easy as it is to transmit birthday wishes to Grandpa in Sarasota and cookie recipes to Aunt Gwen in Fredericksburg it is just as easy to send threats from estranged spouses, solicitations from deposed Ugandan Cabinet officials, war and terrorist plots, embarrassing or incriminating information, or plain old computer viruses. And, this sort of thing has been around since Mr. Morse first spammed the B & O Railroad in 1844.

Confederate Email.

During the Civil War, the telegraph became a crucial tool of communication. It relayed battle plans and results back and forth from President Lincoln to his General of the Day and the Confederates were big fans, too. In December 1863, transmissions from Richmond were intercepted by Union telegraph forensicators and led to the capture of Confederate spies in New York and the confiscation of contraband and ammunition. This is an early example of network forensics, much like capturing packets today (Greeley, n.d.).

The problem with all this free-flowing information is that it can be intercepted, whether you’re a Confederate spy or not, or misdirected and the information contained within can be used against the sender or recipient. So, security is paramount for users but it must also be attainable by law enforcement in the event that email becomes evidence.

Authenticating emails is one problem. It’s not enough to say, “hey, I got an email from Mr. Green threatening me” and Mr. Green says “I didn’t write that.” In the 2012 Maryland case of Donati v. State, Mr. Donati threatened a bar and also sent harassing emails to the Montgomery County Police. He used different accounts, the same tone and followed up with phone calls, but denied writing the emails. The authorities were able to authenticate the emails circumstantially by verifying his IP address, finding paper in his house with the accounts written on it, plus the police responded to the emails, Mr. Donati was found to have been the author (Miller, 2014).

Of course, criminals don’t want to get caught and innocents don’t want their emails intercepted or used against them, and people want to be sure that the emails they send and receive are legitimate. Security measures have been in place for years but “email was not designed to with any privacy or security in mind,” says Geoff Duncan, writing for Digital Trends. Encrypting email poses many challenges, some which include that the message, and maybe the attachments, are encrypted by the metadata is not—which could be read and used to produce a trail of evidence, (Duncan, 2013).

Plug it in, plug it in.

Germany’s De-Mail purports to offer end-to-end encryption for its users. De-Mail. The purpose of De-Mail was to complement regular postal mail for legal documents. De-Mail has struggled to attract an audience, only securing 1 million users since its inception in 2012, which is far below the expected totals. Using OpenPGP, De-Mail offers its users a secure transmission of email from user to sender. However, the user needs to install a plugin to make it operational and that plugin is only available fro Firefox and Chrome, which excludes 60% of Germans who use other browsers, not to mention mobile apps and desktop mail clients (Balaganski, 2015).

It doesn’t look like Germany’s De-Mail encryption push will have much effect. Without mobile support in an increasingly mobile-only world, and with only 40% of the browser use supported and assuming people will even install the plugin if they are able, leaves the vast majority of people unencrypted (Craig, 2015).

Although email remains popular, and will be used for transmitting messages for quite some time, there are many other options depending on what it is you are transmitting. Several years ago, it was common to send all messages and small attachments via email. Just about everyone used it and understood it and didn’t worry about it. But, to send large files, email might not be the best option. Services such as TransferBigFiles, HighTail and WeTransfer are better options to send files that are several gigabytes in size, instead of attaching them to an email. Further, sending a text message is much easier than emailing someone with a short message. One benefit of emailing is that is creates a simple archive. It is easy to search through old emails when looking for something of re-download an attachment that was lost. But, if the information is encrypted, searching might not be as easy (“Searching Encrypted Emails, 2010.”).

Hello, I’m from the Government and I Want to Read Your Email.

I do not believe that De-Mail’s new encryption scheme will have much effect on network forensics. Unless it could be implemented for all users across all platforms and be easy to install and guaranteed to be installed, it won’t matter all that much. Of course, to ensure 100% compliance would require government mandates and government oversight over everyone’s email use in the interest of “making it safe for everyone.” I do not think the people will would accept that much government interference and would simply use other methods, such as those name earlier, to transmit information, making email the next MySpace.


Balaganski, A. (2015, March 10). De-Mail: Now with End-To-End Encryption? Retrieved March 26, 2015 from

Cook, D. (2013, January 16). Internet 2012 in Numbers. Retrieved March 26, 2015 from

Craig, C. (2015, March 13). German E-Government Serivce Gets OpenPGP-Based Plug-Ins But Their Impact Is Unlikely to be Widespread. Retrieved March 26, 2015 from

Duncan, G. (2013, August 24). Here’s Why Your Email is Insecure and Likely to Stay That Way. Retrieved March 26, 2015 from

Eastman, H. (2013, July 7). Communication Changes With Technology, Social Media. Retrieved March 26, 2015 from

Greeley, A. (n.d.). The Military-Telegraph Service. Retrieved March 26, 2015 from

Lew. A. (2010, May 24). You’ve Got … 25 Years! AOL Celebrates 25th Anniversary With Big Birthday Bash. Retrieved March 26, 2015 from

Miller, R. (2014, February 18). How Do You Get an Email Into Evidence at Trial? | Donati v. State. Retrieved March 26, 2015 from

Norman, J. (2015, March 25). Morse Transmits the First Message by Morse Code (May 24, 1844). Retrieved March 26, 2015 from

Searching Encrypted Emails in Outlook. (2010, December 2). Retrieved March 26, 2015 from

Van Vleck, T. (2001, February 1). The History of Electronic Mail. Retrieved March 26, 2015 from

First submitted as a Discussion Forum post for the MS-Cybersecurity Program at Utica College by Jeff Macharyas

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Cybersecurity Complacency

cybersecurityIt is human nature that we do ourselves harm or neglect ways to keep ourselves healthy even when we know it is against our best interest. We fool ourselves by thinking “it won’t happen to me,” or “why bother.” We smoke, we text and drive, we consume mass quantities of alcohol—and we neglect our own digital security.

What does John Q. Public think about digital security?

A 2011 study conducted by the National Cyber Security Alliance revealed a shocking lack of knowledge and a high level of complacency amongst educators when it pertains to their own protection and to that of their students. A staggering 76% reported that they have spent less than three hours in the past year on cyber protection training and that only 8% reported devoting six or more hours to the subject in the past year. 42% of adults believe that the individual is responsible for keeping the internet safe—40% of those people have not even taken the simple step of changing their passwords in more than a year—if ever.

Schools do a good job (90% of them) at shielding students from digital threats, but very few teach them anything about how to protect themselves. My son is in a dual-enrollment program in high school. One of his subjects is “Computing.” He spends a great deal of time learning Excel and Word, but not a second on security.

A Scout is Loyal, Brave, Reverent, Trustworthy—and in Danger

I had a similar problem as webmaster for several Boy Scout Troops. When asked to post photos with full names of Scouts, I would refuse. “Why not?” I would be asked. There have been cases in which child abductions have occurred because “bad parents” were able to find their kid’s info on Scout websites. It’s BSA policy not to publish full names. The response I often received was: “Ahh, just do it, what’s the big deal?”

The problem also exists on the other end of the age spectrum. Several months ago I was asked to conduct a seminar on smartphone use for seniors at the YMCA. My students were attentive, inquisitive, and surprisingly knowledgeable on many aspects of their devices. I concluded with a segment on security. There were many blank stares and a few asked me for a definition of “cybersecurity”—and still didn’t understand it.

It’s alarming to see the lack of concern exhibited by so many people in regard to their own safety. There are efforts being made and many resources for those who seek them out, such as the book, Cybersecurity and Cyberwar, by P.W. Singer and Allan Friedman, who make the subject approachable for average people. In 1980, Mothers Against Drunk Driving started a movement and has rallied Americans to take a stand against impaired drivers. Perhaps we now need a Mothers Against Complacent Cyber Victims.


Boy Scout Troop 626 Queen of All Saints Basilica Chicago, Illinois (n.d.)  Retrieved January 7, 2014 from

Franceschi-Bicchierai, Lorenzo (2014, January 3). Cybersecurity Simplified: A Reality Check for the Digital Age.  Retrieved January 7, 2014 from

National Cyber Security Alliance (2011). Retrieved January 7, 2014 from Study Fact Sheet Final _0.pdf

National Cyber Security Alliance (2011). Retrieved January 7, 2014 from User Study_Final_11_15_11.pdf

Symantec Corporation (2012, October 15). New Survey Shows U.S. Small Business Owners Not Concerned About Cybersecurity; Majority Have No Policies or Contingency Plans [Press Release].  Retrieved January 7, 2014 from

This post was originally submitted in January 2014 as a discussion post in the MS-Cybersecurity and Computer Forensics program at Utica College.

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The Dark Side of Online Games

Lexulous: Where horrible, cheating scoundrels meet to play games!

I am addicted to playing “Scrabble” online. I get up early and usually devote an hour to it instead of doing something constructive like watching “Kimmie Schmidt” on Netflix.

I grew up playing board games with friends and family. Monopoly, 21, Checkers, and Chess (sounds like an REM song) and, of course, Scrabble.

I’m good with words so I usually win. This drives my family crazy, but I try to be lenient; I’m just that  good.

However, in the virtual world, I’m not as good as I think.

Scrabble moved around a bit and was found on,, and then it was gone. I think Hasbro, the owners, yanked it offline in a hissy fit because they weren’t making any money.

There are EIGHT Tiles!

Then, some Scrabble knock-offs came online. Some were really awful and then there was Lexulous. Lexulous is similar to Scrabble, but with some differences, notably there are eight tiles, not seven (imagine Captain Picard from Star Trek saying that: “there ahr eight tiles!”). And the values are different for the letters.

So, I’ve been playing Lexulous for a thousand years now. You start with 1200 points and compete with random people from around the world (and beyond). I usually find people from Australia, the UK, India, and sometimes, like 20 miles away (creeeeepy).

A few years ago, I got my score up to 1977. Wow! Almost  broke 2000. Then I went on an epic slide. I went down into the 1600s and have been clawing my way back up. I seem stuck in the high 1700s. I win a few then lose a lot, win some, lose more. I feel like Sisyphus pushing that boulder up the hill. Only, he had it easy compared to what I’m going through!


But, there is a dark side. Cyberbullying is part of the online gaming experience. Some of the people on there are just rude, nasty, and out of their freakin’ minds. I was playing “Loopylinda.” All was going well, I won one, she (he or it) won one and then the last game I was behind and I placed my last set of tiles. The system froze. The timer kept running but I couldn’t submit. This happens a lot. So I hit the refresh. Well, that threw the game out. Sorry, not intentional. Loopy will still get the win in three days and the coveted points. But, in the chat window I received the following: “jerk.”

I wrote back that I was locked up and hit refresh. Oh no. I can’t ever play Loopylinda again that’s for sure. Apparently there is a way for people to “censor” you. Sometimes people get all mad at me and then I am censored! Ha! You will never play me again, you, you, meany head!

Lazy Slack Cow

Then, some people just get way carried away. Here’s an exchange I saved from three years and had posted on my Facebook page. Get a load of this:

louise63: u did nothing u took all my work
Me: huh?
louise63: u don`t deserve to win lazy slack cow
Me: ok thank you
louise63: you gave back nothing selfish bitch
louise63: go rot
Me: ok. thanks for the feedback.
louise63: f**k off stupid fat cow
louise63: still doing nothing still useing the other person `s work and giving nothing back it`s a game for two people not just you fatso
Me: i’m not fat. but thanks for pointing out my character flaws.
louise63: ha ha your loosing
louise63: you will never WIN another game
Me: oh no! whatever shall i do?
louise63: die bitch
louise63: u r loosing because you are tro slack to think for yoursef you have to take everybody else`s work

What’s up with Louise63? Does she know Loopylinda? Why do they get so mad all the time? This exchange, actually, is not even the worst I’ve gotten!

A new exchange in which I am accused of cheating while I’m losing!

frogscroak: it’s nidce playing you
Me: see, the universe reset itself
frogscroak: nah..
frogscroak: the site did
frogscroak: but I think you cheat too much
Me: how can i cheat?
frogscroak: are you being obtuse?
Me: no it’s a real question because i don’t cheat nor do i like to be accused of doing so, so tell me how you think i am please
frogscroak: you don’t have the ratings level or the vocabulary for the words you paly
Me: esp. with a score of 1786, i guess im not a good cheater then!
frogscroak: so you must be amazingly lucky then
Me: ah. I work in publishing maybe that helps
frogscroak: no
Me: ok no problem.
frogscroak: you set type?
Me: i used to back in the day
frogscroak: you used to back in the day.
frogscroak: I have no idea what that means
frogscroak: ohh
Me: yes the 1980s before desktop computers

Filthy Anagrammer

But, I’ll keep playing. I play honestly, even though I’ve been accused of being an “anagrammer.” I don’t know. I think there might be some online system to figure out words. If I put down a big-point “bingo” and get like, 103 points, then I get the virtual wagging finger pointed in my face: “Anagrammer! Burn at the stake, anagrammer!” Of course, I rarely get those but my opponents frequently do. But I’m a censored anagrammer. Don’t hang around with me, I’ll steal your vowels.


I played Jovanix who hails from where I don’t know. The score was pretty close but I won by ten in the end. As a way to congratulate me on my epic win, Jovanix and I had the following exchange (I edited some of the naughty bits but I’m sure you can figure out the actual text):

jovanix: f*cking c*nt

jovanix: beat you

jovanix: unbeleiveble chating

jovanix: f*cking unbeliavble

Me: i won by ten and i have score of 1742. really?

jovanix: you are f*cking sick bstard

jovanix: f*cking sick cheating c*nt

Me: ok if you say so. its only a game keep calm

jovanix: go f*cking die together with all your filks

jovanix: f*cking c*nt

Me: i don’t cheat if i did my score would be much higher

Me: ok have a nice day

jovanix: when you f*cking day

A new exchange!

PerfectStorm: you got to be kidding me (I played ZOUAVES for 77 points)

Me: no. it’s real look it up

PerfectStorm: of course it’s real the game would not allow the word if it wasn’

PerfectStorm: my question is whether YOU knew it

PerfectStorm: or a computer helped you get the word

PerfectStorm: go try it with someone else

Me: yes, I am a history fan so i knew it was

PerfectStorm: sure

PerfectStorm: true colors are showing huh?

Me: just because i got a good word does not mean i am a cheater you i just happened to get the letters

Me: if i was such a great cheater would my score be 1758?

PerfectStorm: do you mind

PerfectStorm: i’m playing a game

A Fellow Player Writes In

I received an email from a fellow Lexulous player. I left out the player’s name. Glad to see I’m not the only evil cheating bastard out there!

Hi Jeff, I had a similar experience to yours a few days ago when playing Lexulous. I do not use word generators. I find words on my own. I have a well-rounded background and am knowledgeable about words and etymology (7 years of Latin studies; French and Spanish major at university). Well, I made two bingos in a game with Jovanix and then he requested that the game be aborted. I refused. If there’s a legitimate reason, like a technical problem, I’ll agree, but this was because he was mad that I was winning. Then came the tirade of swear words and accusations of cheating. I have a rating of about 1800, and often dip down to the low 1700s. Like you, I believe that no one with such ratings should be accused of cheating. I’m sure I’d be in the high 1900s, or even 2000s if I were cheating. I avoid playing with people with high ratings for this very reason. Why play against a software program? Well, the phrases full of c*un*s and f*uc*in*s spilled out in the chat box (from Jovanix). What an incredibly foul-mouthed person he is. And he also uses odd syntax. I believe he is not a native English speaker. But I kept my cool. I go to Lexulous for enjoyment, not to get grief. Too bad there are so many people like him there. Just wanted to commiserate with you! And I, too, know what a Zouave is! I learned it in French history classes!

A new member of the Hater’s Club!

A message from StarEyeAre on Lexulous
A message from StarEyeAre
A warning from IpanemaOy
A warning from IpanemaOy


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James Madison: Cyber Warrior

James MadisonIt’s great when you find your special interests converge. I have always had an interest in American history and especially American Presidents. And now, my new interest is cybersecurity and computer forensics after completing my Master of Science in Cybersecurity and Computer Forensics at Utica College. I had not realized this, but our Founding Fathers were very fond of encrypting their messages. They feared that they may fall into the wrong hands. Who knew that the NSA went back so far! It stood to reason, though, as mail robberies were common, and this was the only form of communication available over long distances.

Madison CipherOur fourth President, James Madison, was especially adept at encoding messages (and he was maybe the most paranoid), but so were Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe, amongst others. They began using a polyalphabetical code developed by James Lovell, a Continental Congress delegate from Massachusetts.

Lovell’s code was time-consuming and Madison, along with Edmund Randolph (a Virginia Governor and US Secretary of State), developed a secret seal to circumvent it.

In writing to Monroe, Madison developed a 600-element code, thinking it would suffice and would “answer every purpose.” But, it proved unworthy, and the code was lengthened to 1,500 elements. Eventually this grew to 1,700 elements, and was known as “Jefferson’s Third Cypher.”

Thomas Jefferson—CodeWarrior

Jefferson used encoded messages with others, as well. “I send you a cipher to be used between us, which will give you some trouble to understand, but, once understood, is the easiest to use.” In 1802, President Jefferson wrote this to the US  Minister to France, Robert Livingston.  The cipher he used was derived from the Vigenere cipher, which was used in Europe and considered unbreakable until around 1830. The code was based on a twenty-eight-column alphanumeric table.

Intercepted messages, and perhaps even a Colonial form of identity theft, was prevalent in Madison’s day and they took all precautions they could, much as we use anti-virus software and strong passwords.

Some information for this post was found at Library of Congress, American Memory. Link here. 

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