The Ministry of Home Affairs has come out with a booklet on cyber safety for teenagers that tries to address their increased use of smartphones, gadgets, online gaming, social media and fake news. The booklet, titled “A Handbook for Students on Cyber Safety”, also deals with the problems of cyber bullying, cyber grooming and email fraud. The booklet has been published only in English.
On incidents of lynching due to fake news, the 38-page booklet cautions, “Fake news and hoax messages spread like wildfire on social media (such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat). It may create law and order problem and may end up causing loss of life in a few cases. Before forwarding or sharing any message on social media or messaging app, check it on other sources also to confirm its authenticity.”
From May to June 2018, more than 20 people were lynched on the basis of fake posts or rumours spreading on social media platforms. Following this, the government, prodded by the Supreme Court, in September 2018 set up a Group of Ministers (GoM) headed by Rajnath Singh to look into how these incidents can be checked.
The ministry last year set up a Cyber and Information Security (C&IS) division to check the rapid growth of cyber crimes and cyber threats. It now aims to introduce the cyber crime handbook in schools as a component of the school curriculum.
According to the Indian Computer Response Team (CERT-In), over 53,000 cases of cyber security incidents were reported in 2017 in India, while 1,785 credit/debit cards frauds were recorded, causing a loss of Rs 71.48 crore last year.
On cyber grooming, the booklet says, “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 and exploiting them… 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 share updates and use social networking sites… Details shared on internet stay online forever as it is extremely difficult to delete the information completely.”
On social engineering, the booklet says, “Social engineering is a technique used by cyber criminals to gain your confidence to get information from you. Depending upon what you like most, a cyber criminal may try to interact with you to mine for information. Suppose you like to play online games, an impersonator behaves like another child and invites you to talk to him and share information.”
The booklet also explains various kinds of cyber crimes like identity theft, job fraud, email spoofing and how children can overcome them.
It advises teenagers against accepting friend requests from unknown people on social media, “As a thumb rule, only add people online whom you know offline,asking them never to share personal information like date of birth, address, phone number on social media and not install unwanted software or apps like dating app, online games from unknown sources.
Explained: Educating them young about cyber risks
With exposure to social media growing among children, cyber crimes have increasingly become a matter of concern for parents as well as the government. According to experts in the field, children, especially those in their adolocence, fall in the high risk category and are prone to cyber crime that may range from cyber bullying to email frauds and sexual exploitation.
The handbook on cyber security may go a long way in educating the child about risks on social media as well as methods commonly used by cyber criminals to entrap their victims.