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Internet dangers abound

Internet dangers abound
Internet dangers abound 

The Japan Times
Aug. 21, 2006

This year's annual National Police Agency white paper, titled "Toward 
Building a Safe Internet Society," focuses on the dark side of the 
Internet, including its negative influences on children and its use in 
cyber-crime. It correctly points out that as Internet-related 
information and communication networks become more deeply connected with 
social and economic activities, people need to recognize the negative 
aspects, and that parents and Internet-based enterprises must work to 
rectify this situation. This is the second time that the annual police 
report has focused on the Internet -- in 1998 it examined high-tech 

Last year the police investigated a record 3,161 cyber-crime cases that 
included arrests, an increase of more than 50 percent from the previous 
year. At least 1,408 of those cases were said to be related to Internet 
auction fraud -- 2.6 times more than in the previous year.

Meanwhile, a record 84,173 people sought advice from the police and 
other organizations concerning Internet-related problems, such as being 
billed for services they never used. The number of people who 
experienced such problems had increased nearly five times in half a 

The white paper also mentions other threats to Internet users such as 
spyware, which retrieves information stored in personal computers, and 
"phishing," a routine in which computer users are guided to false Web 
sites for the purpose of stealing their personal information such as 
credit card details. It underlines the need to establish a system under 
which an Internet communications log is kept for a period of time and to 
improve the technology for electronic data analysis to facilitate 
investigations of cyber-crimes.

Given the rapid progress of information technology, the possibility of 
large-scale cyber-terrorism that targets infrastructure such as 
electricity, gas and water utilities, airline services, financial 
services, public transport and communication facilities cannot be ruled 
out. It is important that the government, business enterprises and 
citizens be aware of the dangers inherent in today's Internet society.

The white paper notes the ease with which children can access harmful 
information posted on the Internet, since nearly half the nation's 
households have broadband connections. Readily available information 
includes pornography, advice on committing suicide, bomb-making 
instructions and advertisements for socially questionable activities. 
The posting of obscene images, child pornography and information on the 
availability of stimulant drugs constitutes a crime.

According to a poll of 2,271 junior and senior high school students in 
Aomori, Tokyo, Shiga, Okayama, Kagawa and Kagoshima prefectures and 
their 2,196 parents, conducted in November and December 2005 by an NPA 
study group, 92 percent of the children knew that obscene images could 
be seen via personal computers or cell phones, and 25 percent of them -- 
49 percent of male high school students -- had actually viewed such 

Eighty-six percent of the children knew of the existence of Web sites 
that focus on suicide, and 76 percent knew of Web sites that displayed 
violent images (although these Web sites were not visited as often as 
obscene Web sites). The poll found that children in most families use 
the Internet without restrictions, and that parents do not seem very 
concerned about taking concrete measures to protect their children from 
illegal or harmful information posted on the Internet.

Asked whether they have set any rules concerning their children's use of 
the Internet, 62.1 percent of the parents said no. Yet more than 70 
percent of the parents worry that their children may see obscene images 
or become victims of Internet fraud. As many as 57.7 percent of the 
parents said they were not aware of the existence of filtering software 
to block illegal or harmful information. And only 7.7 said they had 
actually used it.

The white paper reports that only 31.3 percent of polled shops either 
recommend or provide filtering software for use with personal computers 
or cell phones, while 46.9 percent do neither. Another poll shows that 
more than 80 percent of Internet users want providers to exercise more 
control over content.

Society must do more to provide Internet users with accurate information 
on the dangers of the Internet and help them protect themselves. 
Internet providers and managers of bulletin board systems also must 
strive to build a safer Web society.

The Japan Times 
(C) All rights reserved

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