Sometimes things get to me. We all have those moments, we all consider the things that touch us in different ways. For me, I have been a gamer since the beginning of gaming. This world started for me in 1983 with the Vic-20 and was followed up with the CBM-64 a year later. I never stopped gaming, so when I got hit with the article ‘I couldn’t save my child from being killed by an online predator‘ (at http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/jan/23/breck-bednar-murder-online-grooming-gaming-lorin-lafave), I kind of lost it. This gaming world is a world I share, virtually and in reality. I talk to my co-workers on the new games, the challenges some games give and how we feel about some games. A few friends are all about GTA, some share my passion for Fallout, Diablo 3 and Minecraft. Whilst some games we all play by ourselves, because we cannot be into every game that is a mere reality. We hunt down the mutants, kill them with our rifles (all by ourselves), and when we get that legendary monster we get to talk about it the next day. This is a world of fun, joy and challenges. We do not ignore the real life, we interact with others too, which is not always about games. So, I was slightly dismayed when Olivia Wilde chose Jason Sudeikis over me (it must have been the beard). Life goes on, so as you see, we have our dreams, our fun, our joy, our fantasies and we go out of our way to get as much joy into our lives without bringing harm. That is as I see it a way of life that the bulk of us gamers have.
Some are a lot more competitive and even relenting on gaming as they kill virtually to be the best, some of them have a too vivid drive to be winners and dissing the losers or at times being the wannabe’s that strike out to winners. In that world we have all kinds, but actual harm, those cases are rare to say the least. So as I read the article, a form of anger flushed over me. This is for the mere reason that, for a large part of my life, I have been driven by logic and common sense (apart from that Olivia Wilde moment). From what I have read, there are several things wrong here. Not towards one person, but towards a few, including the victim himself.
This is the first quote that actually came after the second one “He claimed to be a 17-year-old computer engineer running a multimillion pound company. Sometimes he was in New York, working for the US government. Other times, he was in Dubai, or off to Syria” and “the ringmaster, whose server they played on. While the other members were known to Breck or his friends, Lewis Daynes was not someone they knew in real life“.
These two quotes should have been a red flag to all parties. We cannot blame a 14 year old, but this should have been the red flag to upset the parents. You see, I will never be a multi-millionaire (actually if Larry Page listens to an option I came up with, I could be). What is the issue is that gaming comes at a price, for the most the really wealthy ones work too much to get time to be on gaming servers. In addition, his location should have been all over the place, any Cyber squad could have seen that, it would have been a real orange flag to the victim that not all was on the up and up, the first thread on the loom of disaster would have been dismantled.
The quote “Lewis says I don’t need to finish school as he can get me a Microsoft apprenticeship when I turn 16” is the second flag. It should have been the alert on several levels. The man was either some ‘multi-millionaire‘ working for Microsoft, or again this was a ruse. The additional “I should be allowed to game as long as I want“, should have alerted parents and police. You see, in common Law even at 16 Breck Bednar would have remained a minor. So, why is a stranger deciding on what someone else’s child does?
The final quote on that topic is “I’d be telling Breck to get offline and he’d literally have Dayne’s voice in his earphones telling him not to listen. I could see Breck’s face, torn between me and his cool mentor who had the whole world going for him”, which now gets us a stranger involving themselves in the life of a minor.
The police as well as the cyber groups should have been all over this, in addition, did anyone contact the FBI here (even though after the facts it seemed an irrelevant act)? You see, the events not yet known could have been averted before zero hour, as Lewis Daynes was from Grays, Essex. This could have diffused a lot of issues. His stories out in the open, for Breck Bednar and all his friends to know what kind of a person Lewis Daynes was before he could strike. Now we can blame the police, and I am doing that partially. Yet in all this, we must also expect that there is a limit to the resources the police has, limitations in time and hardware. Not all is a given.
But there is an issue when we go solely from the article we see in the guardian. You see the quote “I told the call handler what I’d heard, what I feared. She obviously didn’t understand online grooming” has more than one side.
The known elements here are that Breck Bednar was a minor and that there was a clear indication that Breck Bednar was unlikely to be the only minor. We have the following parts, when we look from the other side: ‘Cyberstalking is the use of the Internet or other electronic means to stalk an individual. It may include monitoring, identity theft, threats, or gathering information that may be used to threaten or harass‘, I edited the non-relevant parts out of here. So we see that Lewis Daynes was monitoring, we have identity theft, we can make that case as he assumed to be a person, moreover an industrial who did not exist. This could be seen as a danger to the life and wellbeing of minors.
The elements here are now another matter. You see, in the eyes of the court there is no established guilt, or even crime at this point, yet exposing the elements would have diminished the threat Lewis Daynes was and would most certainly have protected at least one child, leaving us with the reality that Breck Bednar could have been alive today. In this we might consider that the police is to be blamed to some extent, but in equal measure, they did look for the elements, the issue here is the fact that does also count. When we see the quote “Daynes later pleaded guilty to murder with sexual and sadistic motivation“, we are confronted with a combination that is really rare, and with the elements as found, or better stated those that were missing, mainly that the police didn’t find a single image or text about bodies or sex. Certain flags were never raised, but as stated, from what we can see, enough flags should have been raised to take this serious, to give clear indication to Lewis Daynes that he was under open investigation, perhaps enough for him to back off. Enough to diffuse the situation.
Here is my part that is now also an issue. This took me mere minutes, which also beckons on what more precisely happened. You see the police is not lacking or stupid, I would go even further that the involved people might be burdened with guilt. So why is it so clear to me? Well, first of all, to see this in the article is simple, a mere exercise of logic. The true elements over time are a lot less clear, but in all this, the main elements were gamers, gaming platforms and servers, they have time lines and logs. Any level of logs missing would have been another red flag, any other interactions would create even more red flags. So why were these elements missed? Where did the police system fail? In my view there was a clear failure here. Police 101 had failed in a few ways, but it is uncertain whether the failure should allow any level of blame. You see, there is an element that is in the article, but cannot clearly be weighted. it is “Now 18, he was unemployed, living alone in an Essex flat where he bought server space and used it to game with teenage boys“, we are looking at a 2012 system, so what kind of server space? Did he have his own server? Or did he lease hardware? Unemployed and cash for that? If it was a solitary server, we see another element, because it would not be in an enterprise environment, showing even more flags, if it was a personal server, the cyber division had a place to look at, who had Lewis Daynes been interacting with? Even more parents would have been alerted, other gamers would have been informed that he was a jobless no one, and not the 7 figure income person dangling IT jobs from Syria, New York or Dubai.
All elements, all flags and more issues. All out in the open could have prevented the fatal consequence to Breck Bednar, but that is me talking after the events. As stated, this one article is not a proper setting for it. Yet the BBC article gave a few more issues to consider. The fact “Five other counts against Daynes, including the rape of another boy, were not pursued as there was not a realistic prospect of a conviction, the prosecution said“, so perhaps the fact that the element of rape might have been an additional flag that there was a real risk of danger to Breck Bednar. Yet, the BBC is unclear as per when those criminal elements would have been known. Yet there is additional evidence. If there had been a clear investigation the evidence “encrypted electronic equipment” as stated by the BBC could have given additional issues, because they might have been there validly in an organisational situation, in the case of an unemployed 18 year old, such elements could give rise to flags of a criminal aspect, a criminal aspect that had children in the mix.
Even though there have been investigations and even though a misconduct notice was brought, it took almost no time to find enough flags to raise concerns on several levels. This gives concerns to what else is getting missed. Not because I am so bright (I am that), or that the police is that stupid (they really are not), but the need for an evolving infrastructure. If you think that issues are missed now, what do you think will happen when the transition to IPv6 really gets underway? With handheld and mobile devices all stronger than the average data server in 2007, what was reserved to data servers and corporations, is already in the hands of individuals, most of them having no clue what they are holding onto and what these systems are capable of. How can any police force sustain its workload if it is not reshaped into an evolving infrastructure that is able to adjust to other criminal elements? This level of evolution is currently not happening, moreover, it is not happening in many nations. Which is a worry when we consider the case of Lewis Daynes, you see, in this age of economy, the danger of extreme behaviour in a time when people have no jobs, no outlooks and no prospects, these souls are more likely to become extreme, that is a given, yet the extent to it happening is not known, it cannot be predicted and it requires for a better level of investigation. If we are to lower the dangers that kids like Breck Bednar face, we have no other choice but to evolve and change the way we investigate these issues. There has been a clear call for a long time that legislation requires adaption to all kinds of cyber-crimes and cyber based crimes. This for the mere reason that the jump to IPv6 allows a jump from the 4.3 billion addresses that IPv4 gave, to the amount that every person on the planet would have a unique address for every device it owns. More important, IPv6 will allow for every person on the planet to have 1,000 devices, each with their own address and even after that less than 0.1% of all available IPv6 addresses would have been used. We are pushed into an evolution because IP addresses are no longer available. Our devices, each 1,000 times more powerful than the computer that got Apollo 11 to the moon, the computers required to monitor the satellites is now no more than an app and nearly every mobile phone from the previous generation would be able to run it. We moved technology that far ahead. We are now moving to the situation where we see that almost 4 Exabyte a day is transmitted. All that data, once we are in IPv6, all that data can be identified per person and the amount of data will increase almost exponentially. When we get there, how impossible will it become to find extreme elements like Lewis Daynes? That is just the extremes, we haven’t even considered what organised crime could be up to. A situation that brings more questions than answers. Some answers are being sought by Lorin LaFave and I wonder if enough parties are asking the right questions, because some questions come with the element of costs, and they will grow, yet the costs will already be high to begin with. A dimension many politicians are not ready for because the coffers are empty and budgets constraints will limit the steps that need to be made, many are aware of it and nearly no one are voicing those elements.
There is a reality to that, but the reality we need to address is the nightmare Lorin LaFave is forced to face and she is not the only mother who should be worried.