Safety in cyber space

Amrita Prasad
Monday, 18 September 2017

At a session called ‘Protecting Yourself from Cyber Menace’, held in the city, advocate and cyber crime expert Vaishali Bhagwat spoke about the vulnerability of youngsters on social media and ways to protect them.

We can’t imagine a day without social media or the internet today, can we? 
But the cyber world is a peculiar space — while it connects you to the rest of the world, if you don’t use it wisely, it can also affect you through hacking, bullying, trolling and sexual harassment. The youngsters who are addicted to social media and smartphones often fail to understand the dangers behind those likes, comments, shares, and the friend and follow requests they receive and entertain. And they end up being victims of cyber crime. Some of them turn cyber criminals themselves too.

At a recently held session — ‘Protecting Yourself from Cyber Menace’ in the city — advocate and cyber crime expert Vaishali Bhagwat spoke about how to save yourself from such cyber crimes. “The hackers or the cyber bullies play with your mind and emotions, so you need to think  rationally before you say yes to the next click,” says Bhagwat.

She further adds that parents must be open to discussing their child’s issues and must sit with them and guide them about using the medium carefully. “Sometimes, a certain amount of discipline too is important,” she advises.

Excerpts from the session and interview: 
Delete unnecessary apps and unfriend unkwnon people
We all have multiple apps on our smartphones some of which we never use. Just because your friends are using certain apps, you are tempted to download them but they are simply there unused, consuming the space and data in your phone. Bhagwat says that the first step towards saving yourself from becoming the victim of cyber crime is to keep your ‘phone clean’. “Delete the apps that are not important or you do not use. A lot of apps open doors for hackers to get into your system and steal data and information. They often infect your phone with virus. Similarly, a lot of youngsters keep adding unknown people to their friend list, just to boast around that they have a big friend list on social media. If you add a lot of unknown people to your friend list, please unfriend them and the ones with no profile must be blocked or reported immediately. Once a week, you must sit and analyse your friend list and declutter by removing those whom you do not know personally.”

Tackling bullies
Cyber bullying is a big crime. Mocking someone publicly  causes great psychological damage to the victim. If you are bullied online, you must not be afraid to report it or discuss it with your elders, says Bhagwat. “You need to speak to an adult whom you can trust. Get your parents involved and if possible, reach out to your organisation’s authorities when you identify that the the bully is from your organisation. Ensure that it has been reported to the cyber crime cell. If possible, depending on which social media platform you are being harassed, block the bully. However, it is extremely important that when you join a social media platform, you must make use of privacy tools to save yourself from such a trouble,” informs Bhagwat who says that often, the bullies are known people who tend to take advantage of the anonymity on social media.

Bhagwat further cautions that youngsters who are harbouring the desire of bullying their friends can be in big trouble as the cyber cell will track them down and they will be penalised. “Do not misuse the power of internet for the sake of fun or seeking revenge. Bullying in both real life and the virtual world is not appreciated and online harassment can land you in deep trouble. You will end up ruining your reputation and career in the long run,” warns Bhagwat. 

Say no to ‘sexting’
Recently the number of sexual harassment cases on social media has considerably gone up. And the victims could be young women or men. Youngsters indulge in sexting and end up sending nudes which further increases their chances of falling prey to sexual harassment on social media. Says Bhagwat, “The current generation takes everything very lightly, hence the lack of seriousness can lead to hazardous consequences. Many have often asked me how we can stop sexual harassment on social media and my answer is firstly, you need to be vigilant about what you post, is your profile protected? Secondly, even though you trust your girlfriend/boyfriend and think it’s okay to send them nudes, what if his/her friends see them and misuse them? What if the phone with all your private and intimate photos is lost? The consequences can be quite precarious, hence discretion is extremely important,” she reiterates.

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