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Cyber Safety for Adolescents

This topic provides information about cyber safety for Adolescents/students.

Our new generation is getting exposure to cyber space at a very young age. More and more children invest time online to play games, make friends, and use social networking sites and so on. In fact with smart phones access to social networking, online games, shopping, etc. has increased significantly. The cyber space connects us virtually with crores of online users from across the globe. With increasing use of cyber space, cyber crimes are also increasing rapidly.

Children are highly vulnerable as they are exposed to cyber space with limited understanding of cyber threats and safeguards. Children are in experimental age group. They like to experiment, learn new things and use new technologies. While experimenting is a good way to learn, it is equally important that proper guidance is provided to children so that they can protect themselves from adverse impact of cyber technology.

What are cyber crimes

Cyber crimes are offences that may be committed against individuals, companies or institutions using computers, internet or mobile technology. Cyber criminals use platforms such as social networking sites, emails, chat rooms, pirated software, websites, etc., to attack victims. Children are also vulnerable to various types of cyber crimes.

“According to the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In), over 53000 cases of cyber security incidents were reported in 2017 in India”

Cyber-attacks are becoming more complex and sophisticated and are increasingly targeted on stealing the personal information such as phone number, address, photographs, bank details etc. The personal information can be used by cyber criminals against you in different ways like creating your fake profile, cyber bullying, etc.

By following precautions and being vigilant, you can safeguard yourself against cybercrimes.

Cyber threats that can impact anyone

Cyber threats are different possible ways that can be used to attack us using internet or mobile technology.

A hacker is anyone who uses/ exploits technology for an unintended use thereby disrupting operations or causing financial/ reputational loss to people. Hackers can use malwares, viruses or Trojans to attack your computer and gain access to your data.

Cyber criminals want to get unauthorized access to our sensitive information. In majority of cases, the cyber criminals would advent an attack with a clear cut objective, for that they use some of the most effective methods.

Some common ways used by cyber criminals are:

  • Email Spoofing: Sending out e-mails to you that look like genuine and from a trusted e-mail ID but actually, they're not.
  • Malicious Files Applications: Sending you malicious and bad applications and files through direct messaging, gaming, emails or websites etc. in order to get access to your smart phone and personal data.
  • Social Engineering: Social Engineering is a technique used by cyber criminals to gain your confidence to get information from you. Depending on what you like to do most, a cyber criminal may try to interact with you to mine for information and/or commit some harm to you. Suppose you like to play an online game, an impersonator behaves like another child and invites you to talk to him and share information.
  • Cyber Bullying: A form of harassment or bullying inflicted through the use of electronic or communication devices such as computer, mobile phone, laptop, etc.
  • Identity Theft: Deliberate use of someone's identity to gain financial advantage or to obtain credit and other benefits in the other person's name/ for counterparts disadvantage or loss.
  • Job Frauds: Fraudulent representation or a deceptive activity on the part of an employee or a prospective employee toward an employer.
  • Banking Frauds: Fraudulently obtaining money depositors by posing as a bank or other financial institution.

Cyber bullying

Cyber bullying is one of the common cyber threats being faced by children and young people. Though cyber bullying can impact anyone yet due to limited understanding about cyber threats, children become easy victims of cyber bullying.

Cyber bullying means using internet or mobile technology to intentionally harass or bully someone by sending rude, mean or hurtful messages, comments and images/videos. A cyber bully can use text messages, emails, social media platforms, web pages, chat rooms, etc. to bully others.

Initially we don’t even realize that someone is bullying us online? A cyber bully can be a known person,friend,relative of even an unknown person whom we met online on social media platform or a chat room, gaming portal etc., The magnitude of cyber bullying can range from sending rude and hurtful messages, spreading embarrassing rumours to direct threats, stalking,etc.,

The consequences of cyber bullying on children are manifold. There can be physical, emotional and psychological consequences that can not only impact the academic performance of students but affect their daily life to a great extent.

How you can protect yourself from becoming a victim of cyber bullying

  • Don't accept friend requests from unknown people on social media platforms. Cyber bully can even create a fake account to befriend victims. As a rule of the thumb, only add people online whom you know offline.
  • Don't share your personal information like date of birth, address, and phone number on social media or other online platforms. You can go to privacy settings on social media platforms to select who can access your posts online. Try to restrict access of your profile to your friends only. Picture stories for example on a particular platform are public by default.
  • Remember what you post online remains there so it is important to be careful and not to share your phone number and other personal details in comments or posts on social media platforms
  • Never install unwanted Software and Apps like dating apps,  online games, etc. from unknown sources. You should be careful while chatting in the chat rooms. Never share  personal details in the chat room and limit your identity.
  • If you feel hurt after reading a post from a friend or a stranger, don't react with aggressive reply. It may encourage the bully to keep posting such messages. If hurtful post/message is from your friend, you can request him not to do it again. If you are repeatedly getting such messages/ post, please inform your parents or elders immediately so that they can support you.
  • Also, please remember that as a good netizen you should never share mean comments or hurtful messages or embarrassing pictures/videos online. Please be careful and check if your post/comment /videos can be embarrassing for your friend or anyone else. If so, please don't post. You should not become a cyber bully yourself as it is a punishable offence. It adversely impacts the victim.

What can you do if you are a victim of cyber bullying?

If you feel that you are a victim of cyber bullying, please inform your elders so that they can intervene and support you. Following suggestions can be helpful in managing the situation.
  • Inform your parents/elders immediately: If someone is bullying you, you must inform your  parents/elders immediately. Don't feel that your parents will restrict your online activity or ask you not to use your computer/smartphone. It is important to inform them so that they can support all you. Narrate the entire issue clearly to your parents/elders.
  • Identify the bully: Try to identify if the bully is a known person or a stranger. You should try to find out the reason why bully is bothering you. A bully can be your friend or a known person. You may seek help of your parents/teachers to reach out to the bully and ask him/her to stop bullying you.
  • Block the Bully: If bully is using social media platforms to bully you, you can block him/her. All the social media apps or services have the option to block a user.
  • Collect and Save posts/messages: Save posts/messages that were used against you. Such messages/posts can be used as an evidence, if in case a legal action has to be taken.
  • Never respond to a bully aggressively: Bully wants you to get aggressive and get into heated argument. This adds mileage to the information unwantedly. So the best way is to ask the person politely to stop it and if he/she becomes annoying, stop the chat/ block him/ her
  • If your parents/elders feel the need, they can contact local police station to lodge a complaint against the bully

It is both illegal and unethical to threaten someone online. Even if you send them offensive messages, call them vulgar names, make comments on how they look, etc., you may be calling for trouble.

Cyber Grooming

Cyber Grooming is growing as one of the major cyber threats faced by children and teenagers. It is a practice where someone builds an emotional bond with children through social media or messaging platforms with an objective of gaining their trust for sexually abusing or exploiting them.

The cyber groomers can use gaming websites, social media, email, chat rooms, instant messaging, etc. by creating a fake account and pretending to be a child or having same interests as of the child.

Many of us don't even realize that someone is grooming us online. Online groomer can be a known person, a relative or even an unknown person whom we met online on social media platform, a chat room or gaming portal, etc.

Initially, the cyber groomer can give you compliments, gifts, modelling job offer and later they can start sending obscene messages, photographs or videos and will ask you to share your sexually explicit images or videos with them.

The online groomer mostly target teenagers as in adolescence they face immense biological, personal and social changes. The impulsive and curious nature of adolescents encourages them to engage in online activities which makes them vulnerable to online grooming.

The cyber grooming has deep impact on a child's physical, emotional as well as psychological well-being. It can not only impact their academic performance but also their daily life to a great extent. The devastating effects of online grooming can sometimes be long- term and can even haunt the victim in their adulthood.

How you can protect yourself from becoming a victim of cyber grooming

  • Don't accept friend request from unknown people on social media platforms. Cyber groomer can even create a fake account to be friend victims.
  • Don't share your personal information like date of birth, address, phone number and school name on social media or other online platforms. You can go to privacy settings on social media platforms to select who can access your posts online. Try to restrict access of your profile to your friends only.
  • Be cautious when your chat partner gives you many compliments regarding your appearance in just a short span of your acquaintance.
  • Avoid talking to people who asks you questions physical or sexual experiences. You can tell the person to stop asking you such questions as you feel uncomfortable to do the same, immediately inform your parents
  • Do not talk to people who ask you to share your sexually explicit photographs or videos. If you share your sexually explicit photos or videos with someone, the person can share those photos with others or post them on social media. They can also blackmail you.
  • Never turn on your webcam while your chat partner does not connect to the webcam
  • Talk to your elders or parents, if your chat partner suggests to keep your conversation with them a secret.
  • Do not go to meet a person whom you met online alone. Always take a friend or an elder person with you.
  • Never install unwanted Software and Apps like dating App, online games, etc. from unknown sources. You should be very careful while chatting in the chat rooms. Never share personal details in the chat room and limit your identity.

What can you do if you are a victim of cyber grooming?

If you feel that you are a victim of cyber grooming, please inform your elders so that they can intervene and support you. Following suggestions can be helpful in managing the situation.

  • Inform your parents / elders immediately: If someone online is making you uncomfortable, you must inform your parents / elders immediately. Don't feel that your parents will restrict your online activity or ask you not to use your computer / , smart phone. It is important to inform them so that they can support and guide issue clearly to your parents/elders.
  • Block the Groomer: If groomer is using social media platforms to groom you, you can block him/her. All the social media apps or services have the option to block a user.
  • Collect and Save messages: Save messages, pictures or videos shared with you by the groomer. Such messages, pictures or videos can be used as an evidence to take a legal action against them.
  • Your parents/elders can contact local police station to lodge a complaint against the groomer.

Producing, publishing and transmitting sexually explicit material or Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) in electronic form is a punishable offense under The Information Technology Act 2000 of India.

Online gaming

 

Gaming is another area which has been transformed with the advent of information technology. More and more children are joining the online gaming community. Easy access and variety of platforms that can be used for playing online games have helped in increasing online gaming in India. Children can play online games on mobiles, consoles, computers, portable gaming devices and social networks. The gaming consoles operate like a computer where you need to create your account, login, put a headset, use web cam or other devices. You not only play games with crores of users online but also talk to them, share your views, become friends, join groups, teams, etc. While online games can be fun they also bring associated risks.

Enjoy the online gaming experience and have great fun, but make sure that you play in safe!!!

Risks associated with online gaming?

  • There are many aggressive players online who may bully you. Some players play simply to bully or harass others. They may use inappropriate language or cheat others. It is important for you to be careful.
  • Many adults and cyber criminals also play online games and pretend to be a child. They may try to befriend you by giving tips about the games, sharing, points with you and trying to win your trust. They use this opportunity to run a scam by getting personal information or motivating you for a one-to-one meeting.
  • There are many free online gaming websites. Moreover you may receive links over emails or text messages to download interesting online game. Some of the games ask lot of personal information about the player before creating an account. This may compromise your personal information like your name, age, mobile number, etc., which can be misused. You may end up downloading viruses or malwares along with free online games downloaded from unsecure sites which can infect your computer, smart phone or other gaming devices.
  • In many online games your asked to buy points/coins, etc., which can be used to improve performance or give you advantage in terms of time or resources. You are asked to share credit card details for the payment. Ofcourse you ask your parents to help you with the purchase. However, some infected online games can capture your credit card details and misuse it.

How you can protect yourself

  • Don't share your personal information like name, date of birth, address, and phone number with player while playing online games. You don't know who the players are and what is their intention? You may end-up sharing your information with scammers or cyber bullies.
  • Never share your or your parent's credit card/debit card details with anyone when you are playing online games. Some cyber criminals befriend children by helping them with winning games or sharing points. They may win your trust and later ask for your help to buy coins/points, etc. They may ask credit or debit card details. Never share such details with anyone.
  • Never install games downloaded from free online gaming websites that are not reputed. Never download games by clicking on links received on mail or text message or through a popup. You may end-up downloading viruses and malwares which can compromise security of your computer or smart phone.
  • Always install a good antivirus software on your computer, smartphone or other handheld devices. Regularly update the antivirus and other applications.
  • Never share your passwords with anyone. You should use a complex password for your online gaming account and other online accounts. It is a good practice to change your password on regular interval.
  • Never use voice chat or web cam while playing online. This may share your identity with other players and attract cyber bullies and cyber criminals.
  • Never meet in person with someone  from your online gaming world. In real life they may be very different. Cyber criminals may befriend and try meeting you or getting your personal information. They may have wrong intentions.
  • If you face any challenge in online gaming world, immediately inform your parents or elders so that they can support and guide you.

Develop habit of playing outdoor games. You will enjoy outdoor activities and can make real good friends. Limit your exposure to online games as much as possible. Playing outdoor games help you in exploring the environment, developing muscle strength, gaining confidence, making new and real friends and improving your overall personality.

E-mail fraud

Most of you have your personal email account. We need an email account not just to send emails to our friends and family members but also for opening a social media account, online gaming account and other online accounts. Our email account has become an integral part of our life. As you will grow up, utility of your email account will increase. You will use your email account for connecting with bank, mobile service provider, communicate with your college, etc. It is very important to learn how to safeguard your email account.

Do you know we all get unwanted mails regularly? Have you noticed spam email box in your email account? Most of the email providers have the facility of a spam box where unwanted mails are transferred. Email fraud is very common and least expensive method used by cyber criminals to compromise other email accounts for personal gain or to cause damage to individual.

How it works?

There are many ways a cyber criminal can use an email to trigger an attack on your system or collect your important personal information.

  • A cyber criminal sitting anywhere in the world can send you an email from a fake account which looks like a genuine account. For example, you may receive a mail from your gaming portal or social media platform where spelling of service provider or email id will be slightly changed - customer support @gamming portal.com, Have you noticed that spelling of “gaming” is incorrect? These emails contain links which would direct you to another page where you would be asked to enter passwords/ credential for technological upgrade, compliance or other fake reasons (which may sound genuine). And finally you end up giving your credentials to cyber criminals.
  • Another way commonly used by cyber criminals is sending an email with a document (word or excel file) with malware (dangerous program that can impact your computer) attached to it. The title of the email or document can be very appealing to you such as tips to win famous online game or tips to receive free coins for a famous online game or appealing title. If you open such doc malware may get installed to your computer or mobile. This malwares could send important credentials from your computer like password, login id, etc., on regular intervals.
  • Another common email fraud is when a cyber criminal sends you an email informing that you have won a lottery or a surprise gift or your distant relative overseas has left a fortune for you. The offer is so lucrative that you open the email and respond to it. The cyber criminal asks for your personal details and bank details for transferring the winning amount. They may also ask you to deposit a processing fee to enable them to transfer the winning amount. All such emails are generally fake and intention is to get your personal details or money from you. As a child you may not have bank account but you may still receive such emails. You should also share about such emails with your parents so that they can protect themselves.
  • Email account hacking is another common way used by cyber criminals. They may use malware or other tricks to obtain your email id and password. Once your email account is hacked, cyber criminals can use it to get access to your critical information like social media accounts, bank accounts, etc. They can also send offensive emails to all your contacts.
  • Another common trick used by cyber criminals is to hack your email and impersonating your profile and seeking financial help from all your family and friends who are in your email address book.

How you can protect yourself from becoming a victim of email frauds

  • First important step is to safeguard your own email id so that it is not hacked or compromised. For this, you must use a complex password and change it periodically. A simple password like Password 123 or your name or date of birth is too easy for cyber criminals to guess. Use alphanumeric combination to set a strong password.
  • You can use two factor authentication for login. This feature is provided by most of the email service providers. Two factor authentication allows you to login to your account with a password plus OTP received on your mobile phone. This is a good security feature and may help you in keeping your account safe.
  • Never share password of your email account with anyone. Sharing password may compromise your email account. Don't click online or attachment from unknown sender.
  • If you are using computer of your friend or a computer in a cyber café to access your email account, make sure you don't click yes on “remember password popup" which generally comes when you login from a new computer. You must never allow any computer to remember your password (this means system). Always remember to sign off from your email account after using it. Always change your password once it has been accessed from a public computer like in a cyber cafe.
  • If you are accessing email on your mobile phone, remember to keep a strong password to access your phone.
  • If your email account is hacked/compromised, send an alert email or message to all your contacts about the same and warn them not to open the links/ attachment from your email id. Immediately reach out to your email service provider through help page and request them to temporarily block your email account. Try to retrieve your password and change your password immediately.
  • Never install unwanted software and apps from unknown sources. Never click on links or files received from unknown person on your email or over message. This may be an attempt to infect your computer/ phone with malware.
  • If you receive an email about winning a lottery or great offer, please don't respond to it or share your personal information like name, address, bank account details, etc. If you receive an email from your service provider about an update or any other genuine reason, verify the sender's email id carefully. Check if there is any spelling mistake. Avoid clicking on links from such emails. Try to connect with service provider to check if the email is genuine.
  • If you receive an emergency email from your friend or relative asking for financial help, try to connect with that person over phone or through other known people to validate the authenticity of the email. There may be a possibility that his or her account has been hacked and used to send such email.
  • Be watchful and develop a habit to change passwords at regular intervals, ignore emails from unknown sources, and restrict yourself from sharing personal details clicking links/documents received from unknown sources.

Cheating people using communication devices or otherwise is a punishable offence.

Online transaction fraud

Online transaction fraud means illegally withdrawing or transferring money from your account to another account by a cyber criminal. Online transaction frauds can happen when your login credentials or bank account details or credit card details are stolen by a cyber criminal.

How it works?

There are many ways used by cyber criminals to cheat people online.

Cyber criminals can send an email to you from a fake account which appears to be from your bank or credit card services provider.  When you click on link provided in the email it takes you to a page where your sensitive information like bank account details, card details, card verification value (CVV), expiry date, etc., is asked. Once you share these details, your account can be compromised.

Cyber criminals may fake his/her identity and call you posing as a bank employee and try to obtain credit card or bank details such as account number, personal identification number (PIN), CVV, expiry date, date of birth, etc. Once such details are given, the account can be compromised.

Usually, our mobile number is linked with our bank account. Cyber criminals may also call you, posing as an employee of mobile service, provider and inform you that your mobile number will be disconnected if you don’t update your Subscriber Identification Module (SIM). For updating the SIM, they will send you a link or ask to send an SMS to your mobile service provider to block the existing SIM and issue a duplicate SIM. They obtain the duplicate SIM from service provide and use it to transact online using your mobile number and banking app.

How you can protect yourself from becoming a victim of online transaction frauds

  • Never share your bank and card details such as online account. password, card number, CVV, expiry date, PIN, OTP, etc., with anyone. By sharing these details you will compromise your account which can lead to illegal online financial transactions.
  • Make it a habit to regularly update your your bank account and PIN of your Debit/Credit Cards.
  • Always make it a habit to type bank website yourself while trying to login to your bank account. You must not click on a link of bank website appearing on an email, text message or a popup. This may be a fake link and may take you to a fake site. Once you login to your bank account from a fake site, your sensitive details like account number and password may be stolen.
  • Check for the bank's security certificate details and various signs such as green address line, lock sign on the address bar and HTTPS to confirm you are visiting a secure bank website.
  • Always check the website URL starts with HTTPS. The website URL with HTTPS encrypts your data in the website and protects it from any kind of tampering. Do not share your confidential information such as online account password, card number, CVV, expiry date, PIN, OTP, etc. on the website which doesn't start with HTTPS.
  • It is equally important to protect your mobile phone as your mobile number is linked with your bank account. Always use strong password to open your phone and install a good anti virus software. If you receive a call from mobile service provider informing you that your number will be deactivated if you don’t update it or any other message, Please be cautious. Disconnect the phone and call customer care number of your mobile service provider to check if the call was genuine.
  • Never install pirated software on your mobile or computer. It is not only illegal but may also compromise security of your devices. Always install a good antivirus on your computer and mobile phone. It is important to keep your computer software and anti-virus up-to-date.
  • Avoid making online transactions using a public Wi-Fi or a computer in a cyber café. Computers in the cyber café may not have updated antivirus or may be infected with malware which may compromise your bank details and other sensitive information such as card number, expiry date, CVV, etc.
  • Make it a habit to review the monthly statements of your bank account and credit cards. Check if there is any unrecognized transaction.
  • If you find that your bank account or card details are compromised/stolen by someone or your debit or credit card is lost, call the bank immediately and block your card/account immediately. If unauthorized transactions have taken place, you must lodge a formal complaint at your nearest police station.

Safeguards for your social networking profiles

Social networking sites such as Facebook,Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc., are extensively used by all of us. We love sharing an update or a selfie or pictures with our friends and relatives. We love receiving likes and comments on our posts/pictures and updates. While social networking sites have helped us in connecting with our friends and relatives easily, there are serious cyber threats that can impact us if we are not careful.

How it works?

Cyber criminals and cyber bullies can use social networking platforms to harm us.

  • Cyber criminal can create your fake account on social media and use it to share negative things and inappropriate content to harm your image or for other illegal purposes. This is a very real threat and can impact anyone. It is easy to create a social media account using any email id. These days our pictures, email id, date of birth and other details are easily available online. Cyber criminals can use these details to create our fake account.
  • Cyber bullying is very common on social media platforms. Cyber bullies can use social media to send rude or hurtful messages to demean or hurt you.
  • Online frauds can be triggered through links shared on social networking sites. Cyber criminals share a post with a malicious link or a malware. If you click on the link, your computer or mobile can be infected or compromised.

How you can protect yourself and your social media accounts

  • First important step is to safeguard your own social networking account so that it is not hacked or compromised. For this you must use a complex password and change it periodically.
  • Most of the social media sites and email service providers give you an option of two factor authentication to login in to your account. You can go to settings and activate two factor authentication. This means you will need to type your password and One Time Password (OTP) received on your mobile to login to your account. It is a good safety feature and should be used for all your accounts.
  • Never share password of your social media account with anyone. Sharing password may compromise your account.
  • Whatever you post on social Networking sites can be visible to everyone unless your restrict the access of your posts to your friends/followers. You must change the privacy settings of your social media account and ensure that your updates/posts,etc., are visible to your friends /followers only.
  • Avoid accepting friend request from unknown people. Before accepting a friend request try to see how many other peoples are following or are in friend list of the requestor. Cyber criminals can create fake account of your known person so be careful.
  • Whatever you post on social media generally remains there. Be careful before posting anything on social media. Think if the information can be shared with everyone. Never share your personal details such as address, phone number, date of birth etc., on social media sites.
  • If you are using computer of your friend or a computer in a cyber café to access your social media accounts, make sure you don’t click yes “remember password popup” which generally comes when you login from a new computer. You must never allow any computer to remember your password (this means password will not be required to login to your account on the system). Always remember to sign off from your your account after using it.
  • If you are accessing social media account on your mobile phone, remember to keep a strong password to access your phone.
  • If your social media account is hacked/compromised, send an alert email or message to all your contacts. Immediately ask your social media service provider to temporarily block your account. Try to retrieve your password and change password immediately. .
  • If you notice that your fake account has been created you can immediately inform social media service provider so that the account can be blocked. If someone is bullying you, posting inappropriate comments or images or creating your fake account to damage your image, inform your parents or elders immediately so that they can support and guide you. With support from your parents, you can also register a complaint at your nearest police station.
  • Never install unwanted software and apps from unknown sources. Never click on links or files received from unknown person on social media. This may be an attempt to infect your computer with a malware.
  • Fake news or Hoax messages spread like wildfire on social media. It may create law and order problem and may end-up causing loss of life in few cases. Before forwarding or sharing any message on social media or messaging app, check it on other sources also to confirm its authenticity.
  • Never download or upload copyrighted content such as poems, essays, videos, music, images, composition of songs, music, software, etc. without the author's permission. The act of downloading and uploading copyrighted work of others is an offence.

Source : A Handbook for Adolescents/ Students on Cyber Safety by Ministry of Home Affairs

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