Imagine, if you will, a brand new social media site which allows you to keep up with friends and family, create groups, publicize your own life and which have over three hundred fifty million active users. Of course, we all have one specific site in mind, but this one is meant to be different. How different it is we are not told in Daniel Pembrey’s new work, but different enough that there is a lot of interest in the forthcoming IPO, with many high-ranking investors prepared to put money into its development, into making it a commercial success and, above all, in reaping all the financial benefits for themselves.
Now imagine the first open presentation of this site before a crowd of eager investors. The podium has all the company names there, the audience all the money. There is an air of expectation, of eagerness. And then, during the presentation, something goes wrong. Not the much-vaunted Blue Screen Of Death one major software company experienced, something far more sinister. A clicked on link, displayed for all to see, takes the viewers to an online shop for under-aged girls complete with a list price. Child-trafficking online, under-aged women on sale to anyone who can come up with the asking price. Somewhere there is a group of people who have taken over part of the site and are using it for illegal purposes, for the sale of humans, predominantly for sex.
Photo Credit: marsmet543 – Creative Commons
Then idea Pembrey places before us is not so far from the truth. The Internet is used to sell under-aged sex as much as it is used to sell other forms of sex services. How companies deal with this, though, is another matter entirely and one which Pembrey, despite an exceptional idea and some very good writing, doesn’t quite manage to work through.
He takes us into the inner workings of the company, to the people who, shocked by what has happened before both investors and the press, have much more than their good names to protect. He introduces us to a proven security professional whose task it becomes to discover exactly how these links could have been inserted, where they come from, and how to stop the trade in young girls.
The idea, as I say, is good and up-to-date. Social media sites are still the thing on the Internet, still being created, expanded, enhanced. The security problems are ones which many will have come across, even if only at the level of normal – legal – pornography. How the people react, however, is a different matter. In this work the security adviser doesn’t immediately stop the trafficking, doesn’t go into the system and block the links. As far as the reader is concerned, the links, the trafficking, remains online, available for anyone who happens to hit the right group. This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to those who have some knowledge of the Internet, especially when this highly qualified security adviser has to have the word ‘mod’ explained to her by an intern. And it is also not clear why the problem has to be solved, both by this security adviser and several agents from the FBI, by playing an online video game, rather than a quick and effective block and removal action.
That said, The Woman Who Stopped Traffic is a gripping tale which keeps the reader interested. There are few stumbling points – the constant switching between Schweitzer and Schweitz, often several times within a paragraph, which should have been picked up in the editing process – and the reader is not left wanting for description and characterization. Recommended for those with an interest both in the world of social networking and security, but without any technical knowledge of either, and for those who enjoy a fast-moving tale with modern themes.
Privately Published. ISBN: 978 1 149098 335 6.
- Viktoria Michaelis.