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Shape-shifting Villains in the Lawless Ether of Cyberspace

February 14th, 2016 by Michael Dyet

Hmmm, how can we protect our virtual presence from being appropriated by unscrupulous cyber marauders?

Occasionally, I attempt to remember what life was like before we all became attached at the hip to our computers. It was a simpler, slower-paced time that I yearn to recapture. But truthfully, I have difficulty recalling those lost years. It may be that, after 57 years of continuous use, my memory has too much history crammed into it to recall the good old days with high def clarity.

What I can say with confidence is that I did not expend much time or energy back then worrying that someone might try to impersonate me. The likelihood of that happening was so remote it was not worth considering.

But this is 2016. Much of the world is Wi-Fi wired and a significant percentage of us have a virtual presence. It is comparatively easy now for tech savvy villains to sneak through a back door in cyberspace and pretend to be someone else.

If you are a Facebook friend of mine, you may know that I had that unpleasant experience this past week. Some unscrupulous person put up a bogus Facebook profile in my name, although they slipped up by misspelling my first name. This individual then proceeded to send friend requests to people who are already friends with me.

Fortunately, several people alerted me to the scam and I was able to respond in short order to rectify the situation. I notified Facebook who, I must admit, reacted very quickly to remove the fake profile. For security purposes, I also changed my password.

I can now boast, or bemoan, that I have had my blog hacked twice and have been impersonated once. I am not sure if I should be flattered or should consider a virtual exorcism.

At the end of the day, it was merely a nuisance that I had to spend an hour or so to put right. However, the troubling part of the experience is that I do not know why this person chose me to impersonate, how or if they were planning to profit from doing so, and whether they got away with it long enough to do some damage I cannot yet detect.

The sobering reality which this episode underscores is that our virtual presence, as much as we try to safeguard it with user names and passwords and security questions, is pretty much defenceless. It lives in the nebulous region know as cyberspace which is essentially a take-your-chances wilderness where regulation is more of a theory than a practice.

It occurs to me now that cyberspace is rather like the lawless Wild West West sucked into The Matrix and reborn in 21st century form. Yes, I know that is a rather tortured metaphor. But it works if you let it sink in for a moment.

We are in need a Wyatt Earp avatar to gallop in on his virtual reality horse with laser beam six-shooters and arrest the cyber outlaws. Perhaps Neo, the chosen one, could lend a helping hand in tracking down the shape-shifting villains

~ Michael Robert Dyet is the author of “Until the Deep Water Stills – An Internet-enhanced Novel” – double winner in the Reader Views Literary Awards 2009. Visit Michael’s website at or the novel online companion at

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