Horrors of an unsafe internet: Cyber crime cops and experts explain how you can protect your family

With dangers lurking in every corner of the internet, how can you protect your family’s digital life? Hear from these policemen and experts.
Horrors of an unsafe internet: Cyber crime cops and experts explain how you can protect your family
Horrors of an unsafe internet: Cyber crime cops and experts explain how you can protect your family
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For Sharanya, mother of five-year-old Ritika, one of the easiest ways to keep her child engaged so she can go about her work at home is letting her play with the smartphone. “I know too much smartphone use is not good for the child, but I used to think that eventually I will wean her off it,” she says. But that was only until the day she found her child watching a pornographic cartoon playing on the screen – two popular cartoon characters were making out, and one of them was naked. “I was horrified and genuinely scared,” she recounts, and on the same day, she put in all the parental controls she could find on every digital device at home. There are several such internet security products available now, which are not just antivirus or anti-malware software, but also have parental control and monitoring tools.

The internet is not a safe space always. With stalkers trying to peer into our private lives, hackers trying to steal our data or money, and even those we know abusing our private data, our digital life is now under constant threat and requires eternal vigilance. “Parents should put in the required security at the number one point of access to the internet - which is the home wi-fi, and on all devices,” says Nitish Chandan, a cybersecurity expert.

We asked several police officers from across Indian metros on what kind of cyber crimes and unsafe behaviour they see often, and what it is that we can do to protect ourselves and our families

OTP and money transfer fraud: Protect your information, don’t believe cold calls.

Officers at the cyber crime department of Bengaluru police say that one of the most common frauds they see is OTP fraud. “Sixty percent of the cases that we get are related to OTP fraud, or some kind of online money transfer, where victims are lured with lucrative offers,” says Sandeep Patil, Jt Commissioner of Police (Crime), Bengaluru city.

Take the case of a 26-year-old woman, who filed an online fraud complaint recently at the Cyber Crime Police Station in Bengaluru. “A caller from Assam told her that she had won jewellery worth Rs 14 lakh from an e-commerce site she was familiar with,” explains inspector Prashanth Babu. “He informed her that she should pay Rs 8,900 to claim it, and she kept paying more. By the time she suspected it was a fraud, she had paid Rs 1.3 lakh,” he narrates. A point to note here, however, is that such people are targeted using some previously-obtained information about them – like which e-commerce websites they visit. And that is why we need to protect our data with security tools.

In another case recently, the card details that a person had saved on a mobile wallet and some payment apps was stolen. “The person lost around Rs 1.4 lakh. He was alert and he informed his bank to cancel all transactions. But by the time he could do that some money had already been taken from his account,” says Patil.

An assistant commissioner of police in Chennai says that they also see cases of data-phishing through emails, SMSes and app-downloads. “Protecting data on our devices is very important,” he says, adding “But most of the time we only give the data, we only get fooled. We should be careful.”

Failed romance, fake love: Be careful about who you trust with intimate material

“We are often witnessing crimes of defaming women by sharing intimate pictures by creating fake social media profiles,” says G Venkatrami Reddy, an inspector at the Hyderabad cyber crime police station. "While in a relationship, the couple take intimate pictures, but after their relationship fails, the ex-boyfriends threaten to share intimate pictures online. Some go beyond threats, and share them," Reddy says. According to Reddy, the Hyderabad Cyber Crime police receive an average of five such complaints every day.

Sometimes the images are downloaded through hacking, but often they are not. The women’s trust would have been breached, says Reddy. Nitsh Chandan points out that there are several cases of stalking which happen due to hacking and compromised personal data, and the culprits are often past boyfriends or ex-husbands. So it is important to be careful about who we trust with our intimate material, and also protect ourselves from data theft.

Protect your child: They can go into unsafe territory unknowingly, or be groomed

Children being exposed to unsafe content, or being groomed by predators online, is one of the fastest growing online crimes. Nitish Chandan points out that gaming portals are major hunting grounds for predators to groom children and force them to participate in abusive behaviour.

Like in the case of Sharanya and her child, children can be exposed to unsafe material without them realising. Sub-inspector at cyber crime police station in Hyderabad, U Madan says, “Parents should monitor their children's online activity and use child protection lock.”

“Personal devices should be guarded with genuine anti-virus software. Unverified apps should not be downloaded. Passwords should not be easily predictable," Madan advises.

“When we ride a bike, we wear a helmet. Just like that, when we browse the internet, we need to protect ourselves. And it is our responsibility so do so, police cannot prevent all crimes,” says a cyber crime assistant commissioner in Chennai.

Looking at how you can protect your digital life? On all your devices, from PCs and laptops to smartphones, you can use Kaspersky’s security tools, which have antivirus, parental control, anti-ransomware, webcam security, password manager, VPN and 87 more technologies – all in one license. There’s even a Christmas offer on the table now!

This content was produced by TNM Brand Studio in association with Kaspersky. Some names have been changed to protect identity.

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