Cyberbullies and hackers targeting successful women

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by KYLE MOORE / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on December 24, 2010 at 8:51 PM

Updated Thursday, Jun 26 at 3:38 PM

SEATTLE -- Every time local computer professor Marta Lyall goes online she fears she will be attacked.

”You are basically under siege,” says the one time Carnegie Mellon professor in computer programming and virtual worlds.

Last year on Valentine’s Day, Lyall received an email from a former student, Noah David Simon, that contained a video link. That video shows Simon waving a gun and Lyall says what Simon said she felt was a death threat.

It didn’t stop there. Next blog posts started to appear which contained lies and inflammatory statements about Lyall, her family and even her medical history. Also fake Facebook pages and social media pages were set up under Lyall’s name.

“You are constantly left in a state of fear and a sense you don’t know what’s happening and you don’t know what is happening next," says Lyall.

Despite all her advanced schooling in computers, Lyall says she now can't use her degree. Lyall goes one step further and claims women are targeted by male hackers and don’t want females online.

“The better you are the more you will be attacked,” she says.

In the spring of 2007, popular Silicon Valley blogger Kathy Sierra was targeted by cyberbullies and hackers. Blog and newspaper headline revealed Sierra received death threats and vicious online postings which prompted Sierra to cancel public appearance and move her online career offline.

It also happened to successful Chicago blogger Patrice Elizabeth Grell Yursik. This fall her site "Afrobella" was hacked. Guests could not log on to her site due to malicious code. It took a four-person team and a month before she was able to get her site back online.

“I have 25 hundred to 3 thousand visitors a day. It is my livelihood. It was really a terrible thing to have that jeopardized,” says Yursik. “I think successful woman like myself tend to be targeted.”

As for Lyall, she is remaining offline for the time being. She says her personal, professional and financial life has been adversely affected by the cyberbullying.

The accused cyberbully Noah David Simon is currently in jail in New York where he lives. He faces three felony charges here including Cyberstalking and I.D. Theft. Prosecutors in King County want to bring Simon to Seattle to face charges since the victim lives in the area. He is expected in court next week.

Lyall says she has spent nearly 40 hours a week battling the false rumors and postings on the web about her. She doesn’t think she will ever fully correct all the bad posts.

"Your online presence isn't necessarily the truth and you have to live with that,” she says.

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