As most people know, we are this week watching a developing story after some as yet unidentified hacker, or hackers, gained access to naked photos of a handful of celebrity women and published them on the web. As that investigation unfolds, especially into what appears to be a failure in the security of Apple’s iCloud server, many of us non-celebrities are naturally wondering how safe our information is, but we are probably still underestimating just how dangerous it can be to become the target of a hacker with the right skills and too much time on his hands. The lines between hacking, identity theft, and stalking can get blurry very fast, and my guest on this podcast has some insightful, first-hand experience with that frightening reality.
In her early 20s, Leandra Ramm had her life and career derailed by a cyberstalker operating halfway around the world in Singapore. It was about ten years ago when Leandra was an aspiring opera singer, living and working in New York City, her career just taking off, when she appeared on CNN with Anderson Cooper to talk about her origins from the Genius Sperm Bank. A Singaporean named Colin Mak Yew Loong saw the broadcast on CNN International and from that moment on, he made Leandra one of what turned out to be his many projects in stalking, harassment, and threats of violence. The experience cost Leandra many professional opportunities, made her terrified for her safety, and left her in a continued state of anxiety.
Pressing a case of international cyberstalking is extremely difficult because laws vary nation to nation, and some countries have no cyberstalking laws whatsoever. Nevertheless, Leandra pursued her stalker aggressively along with the help of digital forensics examiner, A.J. Fardella, and as of last December, Mr. Loong is serving a three-year sentence as the first person ever convicted in a case involving cyberstalking across borders.
Leandra also wrote a book about her experience called Stalking A Diva, in collaboration with attorney D. Rocca. Today, these two women, along with Mr. Fardella, represent the founding members of the Alliance Against Cybercrime, a new organization designed to address stalking and other forms of Internet-based crime through international advocacy, policy initiatives, and public outreach. Leandra’s case and this new alliance were instrumental in helping to pass Singapore’s Protection from Harassment Act in March of 2014.
I am also happy to report that Leandra’s singing career resumed after her ordeal. She continues to work in a wide range of genres, both recording and performing live.
Visit Leandra’s music website here.
Buy the book Stalking A Diva here.
Visit the Alliance Against Cybercrime here.
© 2014, David Newhoff. All rights reserved.