Netcops (c) 1994

by Hank Nussbacher

This short story was written and published in 1994 in the Internet Insider by Ruffin Prevost, 1995.

I eased the unmarked cruiser out onto the highway, its 424 cubic cc, VJ engine purring. Traffic was heavy that day, as convoys of Usenet semi-trailers barrelled their way down the Information Super Highway. Biker gangs using Crack steered clear of our sedan searching instead for Internet tourists in Bermuda shorts and Nikon cameras around their necks. The Internet was no longer a safe place for innocents. My partner, Friday, sat next to me playing with his IRC CB, channel surfing for trouble.

"Unit 7, unit 7. Woman reporting a 426. Over," came the printout on the netcops IRC channel.

Friday turned to me and gave me that look. The look that he gets when he wants to tear someone's head off. Friday is 6'6" and 230 pounds. He enjoys inflicting pain when necessary. "It's guys like this who give the Internet a bad name. Lets go see what we can do to help," said Friday as he placed the flashing blue Kojak on the top of the sedan as I popped the car into 5th and slashed by the Usenet truckers hauling their load of pornographic magazines and political soapboxes.

We arrived at a Holiday Inn where the lady was staying. Her eyes were red and she looked like a Mac had hit her. Under the hurt she was actually quite pleasant to look at, kind of like the girl next door. Her name was Mary and in between sobs we sat her down and ordered espresso from the lounge bar. "It was terrible. I feel so violated. I'd like to kill the bastard," spat Mary with a vehemence that only Friday could understand.

"Just the facts, mam," said Friday.

"I'm here overseas for 9 weeks on assignment for my company. My husband is back home with our daughter and we decided to stay in contact via the Internet. I carry my subnotebook with me everytime I travel. My husband and I get along great but 9 weeks away from each other is just too long so we engage in cyber-sex. You know, private IRC channel, getting undressed behind locked doors and describing in intimate detail what we are doing to each other. We've been doing it almost daily for the past 3 weeks."

"But this last time was different. My husband asked me to do all sorts of weird and kinky things and I agreed but it just seemed wrong. After we finished our 3 hour session, my husband called later that day saying that his Internet system was under ICMP redirect attack and that he hasn't been able to get Internet access for the past 24 hours."

Friday cut her off, "Do you use any protection?"

"I normally would have used PGP (Pretty Good Privacy), but I forgot to install it on my computer before I left home. Listen, this guy at the other end must have been listening in on my previous sessions with my husband because he knew all the right things to say to me so as to not arouse my suspicions." Her lip trembled as she tried to hold back her tears but both Friday and myself knew that time may heal all wounds but the scar remains.

It was my turn now to bring down the hard facts, "Mary, it looks like you are the victim of a 426 - net-rape. There are no laws on the Internet, no police, no government to turn to. Friday and myself act as volunteers in this neck of the woods along with thousands of others like ourselves throughout the world who mete out our form of frontier justice. What would you like done once we catch the perp?"

She didn't hesitate for a moment, "I want nine of his fingers broken."

"Why nine?" I asked.

"There's no greater torture than using the Internet with one finger."

Friday smiled. Mary had made herself a lifetime fan.


We were able to track down the perp via the historical data sampling we collect daily via our RMON probe. We just correlated the packets with Mary's known IP address and the time of day that the incident happened. Once we had the perp's IP address we contacted our fellow "cowboys" in that area who worked with the sysadmin who backtracked through the Unix logs and found the guy. Needless to say, he will never type fast again.