Internet crimes see manifold rise during lockdown; children are the biggest targets

With the lockdown affecting the world, and internet consumption going up, it was only before time that the number of internet-related crimes would see a significant rise.

Data from the department of telecommunications has revealed that between March 22 and March 28 (the initial part of the lockdown), India consumed an average of 3,07,963 terabytes data.

This data consumption isn’t surprising. With people working from home, children being asked to attend classes on apps such as Zoom and WhatsApp, Instagram live sessions between celebrities, and TikTok videos doing the rounds, it’s no surprise that the data consumption has increased manifold.

However, with this data increase, there is bound to be a rise in the number of cyber crimes, as data reveals. According to a report in The Week, a recent study by cyber security firm Uniken has revealed that India has witnessed a 2-3 fold rise in cyber crimes during the pandemic.

It’s not like this is a novel thing, as a report in The Hindu reveals. In a global compilation of reports of child sexual abuse material found online, India was on top of the list with 11.7 per cent of the total report 19.87 lakh reports.

Akancha Srivastava, who runs the foundation Akancha Against Harassment, an online forum that educates people about the dangers of cyber crime, says that so far she has received 38 such cases from across India. “27 of these cases target young adults aged between 14 and 18, while 11 cases target children aged under 14,” she told Free Press Journal.

Srivastava adds that a number of those attackers are known to the victims. “In most cases it’s a relative or a friend who takes the contact details from the unassuming victim on networking social networking sites like Zoom, WhatsApp, Facebook as well as on video games (a platform where predators have been found in the past). However, parents are reluctant to make any complaints, as they fear that they will be ostracised by society. “However, the parents should know that a third-party can make a complaint to the police in case a minor is involved,” explains Srivastava.

Interestingly, although platforms like Facebook, Instagram and TikTok have an age gate of 13 years, there are plenty of kid influencers (managed by their parents) who use these platforms to alter how a child tends to think. Srivastava blames parents for this fad. “Social media can be a wonderful thing, but when children are involved, things can turn ugly especially given the ease of conducting a cybercrime. I usually suggest to parents to not even put pictures of their child on the internet, leave alone posting videos. “Parents need to realise that besides harming their child, they end up putting themselves at risk if they share content of their homes on social media. While they may think It’s cool, criminals, sitting at home, may find an easy way to break into a home if people continue sharing videos of their homes,” she added.

Another thing Srivastava talks about is child grooming. While grooming is a good thing, child grooming isn't, she explains. "Parents need to speak to their kids more often. If they do not, someone (usually a person the child trusts) can find them online and make them confide in them. Over a period, the child can become a victim of abuse, thanks to the predator. This is called child grooming," she says.

Stressing on the need for parents to be more open with their children, Srivastava says that they are role models. "Children tend to ape what their parents do, and if the parent is hooked onto the internet, it's highly likely that the child will be as well. That's where parents need to understand how to fix this problem."

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Free Press Journal