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Suicide threats

Suicide threats on social media: Advice from a mental health professional

When “Saturday Night Live’s” Pete Davidson’s posted, “I don’t want to be on this earth anymore” and “I’m doing my best to stay here for you but I actually don’t know how much longer I can last” on Instagram, friends, fans and followers reacted just as they probably would have if he’d told them the same thing on the phone. Some panicked — perhaps remembering the suicides of other people in the limelight, like Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade — earlier this year. Some got snarky and actually joked about it. Others offered public expressions of love, hope and help.

It’s disturbing and hard to know what to do when a Facebook “friend” or a person you follow on Instagram or Twitter threatens to commit suicide on social media. But the truth is that most people — even some professionals — don’t know how to respond when someone makes that kind of statement in “real life.”

As a psychotherapist, I often see clients who suffer from the pain of depression, some of whom have expressed a desire to end their lives. Although most people who suffer from depression do not try to kill themselves, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide was ranked as the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. in 2015, the most recent date for these statistics. Numerous studies have shown a wide range of reasons that someone thinks of committing suicide, but the holidays are one of the times that depression, sadness and loneliness begin to take hold of many people.

Suicide threats

Despite the initial hiccup when it seemed that some of his followers thought he was joking, people got at least one hugely important thing right: They let him know that they heard that he was suffering and that they cared. Pain is there, whether someone has threatened suicide once or a hundred times, and it is often hard to hear, recognize or address it. But once you do hear it, it’s important to let the person know that you are there, and that you hear that they are hurting. On social media, that often means a public statement of the sort that lots of people sent Davidson.

If you know the person on a more personal level, you can offer to come over to be with them and, once you’re with them, if it seems that they are going to act on the impulse, try to get them to go to a hospital emergency room. It’s important that they not be alone, but well-intentioned fans or vague acquaintances who try to make personal contact can make things worse, not better.

Finally, keep in mind that such a public declaration of someone’s pain can quickly turn into public humiliation. Someone who has, perhaps impulsively, shared his or her inner turmoil with the world might be terribly embarrassed and ashamed about all of the attention that comes as a result of the sharing. As a follower, you can let them know that you still care and that you understand what they were saying to be a way of asking for some help. And then, encourage them to get that help.

Cyberattack

Cyberattack-on-demand firms taken down by FBI

Federal prosecutors announced Thursday the seizure of 15 internet domains and charges against several men associated with firms that offered on-demand cyberattacks.

Federal officials allege that the firms carried out attacks on behalf of clients on the computer platforms of financial institutions, universities, internet service providers, government systems and various gaming platforms by using distributed denial-of-service (DDos) attacks, which overwhelm computer systems with floods of internet traffic.

The domains seized by the FBI in the nationwide investigation include some of the world’s largest “booter” or “stresser” services including critical-boot.com, ragebooter.com, downthem.org, and quantumstress.net, according to federal criminal complaints filed in California and Alaska.

The use of such services, so named because they boot or drop the victim-targeted website from the internet, have grown as a low-cost, entry-level option for those seeking to engage in cybercrime, according to federal law enforcement officials.

Clients of the services were able to launch powerful attacks that flood targeted computers as well as websites and servers with internet traffic, rendering them unusable to the public, according to the 33-page affidavit in support of the warrant filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

Matthew Gatrel, 30, of St. Charles, Illinois, and Juan Martinez, 25, of Pasadena, California, have been charged in the complaint with conspiring to violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act through the operation of services known as Ampnode and Downthem.

From October 2014 to November 2018, Downthem’s database showed more than 2,000 customer subscriptions, and had been used to conduct or attempt to conduct, over 200,000 DDoS attacks.

Cyberattack

“The attack-for-hire websites targeted in this investigation offered customers the ability to disrupt computer networks on a massive scale, undermining the internet infrastructure on which we all rely,” U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna said. “While this week’s crackdown will have a significant impact on this burgeoning criminal industry, there are other sites offering these services — and we will continue our efforts to rid the internet of these websites. We are committed to seeing the internet remain a forum for the free and unfettered exchange of information.”

In addition to the federal actions in California, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Alaska charged David Bukoski, 23, of Hanover Township, Pennsylvania, with aiding and abetting computer intrusions.

The charging documents allege that Bukoski operated Quantum Stresser, one of the longest-running DDoS services in operation. As of Nov. 29, Quantum had more than 80,000 customer subscriptions dating back to its launch in 2012. In 2018 alone, Quantum was used to launch over 50,000 actual or attempted DDoS attacks targeting victims worldwide, including victims in Alaska and California.

Each of the services was tested by the FBI, which verified those DDoS attack services offered through each of the seized websites and the bureau determined that these types of services can and have caused disruptions of networks at all levels.

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