Spyware helps send child abuser to jail

Graham Cluley
Graham Cluley
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In a case reported in the British media, an ice-hockey coach has been jailed for four and a half years after being found guilty of having sex with an under-age girl. He was only caught after the teenage girl’s father installed spyware onto her PC.

38-year-old Nicholas Lovell met the 15-year-old girl after working as an ice-hockey teacher in 2006. Police had previously warned Guildford-based Lovell to not contact the girl, and he had signed an agreement to that effect.

However, the girl’s concerned parents – who cannot be identified for legal reasons – installed a monitoring program called WebWatcher onto her PC to keep an eye on her online activities. The spyware recorded emails and instant messages between the girl and Lovell, providing enough evidence for the police to make an arrest.

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According to reports, the teenager girl has received counselling, and despite initially being angry with her parents now accepts that they installed the spyware for her own safety.

Reading Crown Court found Nicholas Lovell guilty of five charges of sexual activity with a child.

Detective Constable Paul Kerr of the child abuse investigation unit was scathing of Lovell: “Lovell maintained a not-guilty plea throughout the trial and tried to place the blame on the victim. He should have known better but chose to make his victim go through a trial, with the trauma that it caused, rather than admit to his crimes. He is now beginning a lengthy period of incarceration for his crimes against a vulnerable young girl. He made choices about his behaviour and must now face up to the repercussions.”

If you’re a parent it’s quite understandable that you might be concerned about what your children are getting up to on the internet. Although the net can be a fabulous tool for learning and sharing knowledge, there is also no doubt that it can make it much easier for your kids to access unsavoury content and interact with seedy individuals.

Modern operating systems like Mac OS X and Windows Vista provide parental controls which can help you manage what your children can do on their computer.

But if you’re really worried – maybe another good piece of advice is to ensure that the computer is in a family room, making it easier to monitor what your children are doing online, and who with.

* Image source: YAXZONE’s Flickr photostream (Creative Commons 2.0)


Graham Cluley is an award-winning keynote speaker who has given presentations around the world about cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. A veteran of the computer security industry since the early 1990s, he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows, makes regular media appearances, and is the co-host of the popular "Smashing Security" podcast. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

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