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NEWS | July 30, 2013

You live in a bad cyber neighborhood

By Maj. Joseph Wingo 628th Communications Squadron commander

I grew up in a very small logging town buried deep in the mountains of Oregon. It's the kind of place where people still don't feel the need to lock their doors at night. When I visit my parents, they tease me when I press the button on my key fob to lock my car doors and set the alarm.

Growing up, I always felt safe, so I was shocked at what I experienced the first time I moved into a "rough" neighborhood. It was at my first duty station. We were on a two month waiting list for base housing, and I was naive enough to quickly rent a small apartment, close to base, without doing any research on the local area. After we moved in, the landlord informed me that the previous tenant had been evicted for dealing drugs. After a few more days, I came to realize that the guy in the apartment next to us was also dealing drugs. We would regularly wake in the middle of the night to loud and urgent knocking on our door. It was always some strung out user trying to "score a fix." I'd tell them that their drug dealer buddy didn't live here anymore, and then I'd quickly shut and triple lock the door. I awoke to the reality of the world we live in. I learned to use a peep hole before answering the door. I learned to double check the door locks and to even make sure they were locked during the day.

This was the first and only time I had neighbors that made me fear for the safety of my family.

Believe it or not, we all live in a bad neighborhood. Our families spend more and more time living "online," and the internet is not a safe place. When you're online you're right next door to thieves, organized crime terrorists, bullies, stalkers, pedophiles, human traffickers and punks who like to make other people miserable just for the fun of it. It's not a pretty place, and it's only a click away. Too often we view our online neighborhood as our list of friends on Facebook. Unfortunately, that's just the clique you hang out with. These other "not so nice" folks live right next door in the same cyber neighborhood.

The FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center received 289,874 complaints of cyber-crime in the United States in 2012. Of those, 114,908 resulted in financial loss. In total, more than $525 million dollars were reported lost due to cyber-crime last year alone. That doesn't include all of the victims who didn't file a report with law enforcement. There's also a huge impact to the U.S. economy. The security firm McAfee and the Center for Strategic and International Studies recently released a report stating that the U.S. loses up to 500,000 jobs each year due to cyber espionage.

Hopefully, you understand the threat from some of your cyber neighbors and you've taken precautions. Keep your anti-virus software up-to-date, enable your computer's firewall, delete emails from folks you don't know, and thoroughly scrutinize what your kids are doing on-line.

As a reminder, the internet offers con-artists and thieves a new way to ply their trade. Keep this in mind when you are approached by someone claiming to be a lost relative or a random person wanting to be your friend. There's a very good chance they are not who they say they are, and is trying to collect enough information to steal your identity or trick you into providing financial information.

The internet can be a cool place with lots of great things to offer, but the threats are real. For more information on cyber-crime and how to protect yourself, check out Please surf safely.