The internet may have made it easier for us to store and access practically all of our data online, but it has also made us vulnerable to blackmailers, cyber bullies and hackers. This is what happened with US-based Taruna Aswani when someone called 'Kevin John' hacked into her cloud storage and decided to blackmail her.
He found pictures and a video of Taruna which she sent to her boyfriend at the time and threatened to send it to her friends, family and colleagues. His demand was that she should send Kevin pictures of her genitals, something that would "excite" him, within 24 hours.
The 26-year-old physical therapist has been a resident of Maryland for five months now and says that when she first read the email, she was shocked. "I panicked. I was crying and didn't know what to do," Taruna says. But knowing that she had to take quick action, Taruna lodged a complaint with cyber-crime cell there and even the Mumbai police.
But when nothing happened instantly and Kevin sent a second mail, that's when Taruna decided to go public with the situation.
With screenshots of the blackmailing emails, Taruna went public with the incident through a Facebook post.
"I was hesitant to share the email, because of its content. Such sick words had been used. But I knew that if I didn’t share the email, I would not be able to convey how sick it was," Taruna told TNM. With support from her boyfriend, family and friends, Taruna decided to stand up for herself and other women who had been victimized.
"I’m not just fighting for myself, anybody could become a victim of cybercrime. I wanted to set an example for them to speak up and not be oppressed," she says.
Here is the screenshot of the email Kevin sent her:
This is the second email he sent Taruna:
Since Taruna posted about the incident on Facebook on Saturday, the status has gone viral with almost 2000 shares. Taruna knew people would react to her post but says that the support has been "overwhelming". "All the love and support has been unbelievable. I have got messages from so many girls in India telling me how they were victimized, and how they wished they had acted then," she shares.
However, not everyone supported Taruna. As is the case which any such incident, there were a few people who questioned her for having such videos and pictures in the first place. "Those are also the kind of people who would blame a rape victim for the clothes she wore. Thankfully only a few people have said such things," Taruna says.
But despite the negative comments, Taruna stands by her move. "Keeping quiet wouldn’t have stopped him from sharing my pictures and videos. Going public was the best decision I made," Taruna maintains.