Abhishek (name changed), an engineering student from the city, recently received a lot of calls from his friends asking him if his Facebook account was hacked because a lot of pornographic content was being shared on his profile.
“When I tried to access the account, I realised I was blocked out of it. Also, the hackers went live to share porn videos,” said Abhishek. It was embarrassing and humiliating for him as all his Facebook friends were aware of the content being shared and he could not do anything about it, added Abhishek. His efforts to recover the account also went in vain. As a last resort, however, the engineering student managed to block the account with the help of his friends who reported the page to the Facebook administration.
Despite the trauma he went through, Abhishek was lucky that he did not lose important data to the hackers. But, Mohan (name changed) did not have the same luck. The city-based DJ lost his Facebook page to hackers. He used to share all his work, the tracks that he had painstakingly created with his followers, and lost all of it after the page was hacked.
“The person who had hacked my account deleted all my posts and changed my page details and other personal information. All the money that I spent on paid promotions was wasted and I could not even retrieve the links to my music videos,” said Mohan.
When contacted, cyber-crime sleuths of Central Crime Branch (CCB), Greater Chennai Police, said that they have been flooded with complaints of online abuse. “Threating men or women by creating fake social media profile in their names and posting inappropriate content, misusing the username and passwords shared between friends, saving WhatsApp and Facebook conversations between the two individuals and sharing it later with the unsuspecting victims’ families or colleagues, morphing the photos of girls shared online and circulating in on social media and misusing a woman’s photo for an improper content comprises the majority of the complaints we receive,” said Assistant Commissioner Velmurugan from Cyber Crime, CCB.
Officials from Cyber-crime wing said that social media users are under the impression that photos shared with individuals they trust are safe. But, they have little idea that doing so makes them vulnerable to misuse of their data in the future. “Even harmless photos shared on social media could be misused by the user’s friends. Usually, a social media user can have about 1,000 people on their friend list and it is difficult to gauge which ones are genuine accounts of known friends. Someone may pose like a friend and open an account with mischievous intent,” said an official.
“While it is impossible for someone to check the intentions of people online, it is better to play safe and not share any personal details online. One should understand that lakhs of vicious eyes can keep an eye on whatever you choose to post from your account,” he added.
Increasing instances of men falling prey to online abuse
Instances of men being abused online has been on the rise, claimed cyber-crime officials. “We a complaint from a man who received a video call on WhatsApp from an anonymous number and a pretty woman appeared on the screen. He was tempted and started to talking to her. Soon, he began to receive nude photos from the number and he reciprocated with equal enthusiasm,” said an official. “A few days later, he started receiving threating calls from unknown people who claimed that they have his nude photos and demanded a huge sum from him in exchange for not making the photos public,” he added.
How police track, nab cyber criminals
According to cyber experts, although action can be taken against hackers as such offences come under Section 66 of Information Technology Act with the punishment of upto three years of imprisonment, the catch is to trace the person hiding in the world wide web. “Hackers targeting banks to loot it would be technologically advanced and would use encrypted IP addresses, anonymisers, or darknet. But those make personal attacks are not likely to be sophisticated hackers and in such cases if their IP address can be traced, the offender can be nabbed easily,” said Na Vijayashankar, a cyber law consultant.
“If the police request the concerned social media organisations, they don’t usually have any qualms about furnishing the details. If the accused is from India, then the police can easily nab them. They, however, need to establish a strong liaison with such organisations for timely and free flow of information. Delhi and Mumbai police have been adept at this, but I am not sure if Chennai police have progressed so far,” Vijayashankar added. Another cyberlaw specialist, Pavan Duggal, said that hackers who use dark net are virtually untraceable with the technology available with the police now.
Limitation on curbing such crimes
While it is difficult for most social media users to use provisions available at these platforms to regain control of their hacked accounts, it is equally difficult to gain access to or delete photos and other content that are leaked on to the internet. Commenting on this, Deputy Commissioner (CCB-I) G Nagajothi, said, “When we receive such complaints, we write to the concerned organisations explaining how it is an offence under our laws. Usually, they study if the request applies to their terms and conditions and forward it to their legal team. After they review and approve it, they finally remove the content.”
“It takes at least three days to get this done as these organisations have their offices in other countries in different time zones with a different legal system. So, it is imperative that the victims reach the police at the earliest,” she added. The official further said that the social media organisations take immediate steps and remove controversial content if it is related to pornography and morphing, but if they deem the content harmless, then they may turn down requests and complaints. She advised social media users to be careful of the data they choose to share there.
On a similar note, the Greater Chennai Police released two awareness videos on the theme Good Netizen and Good Citizen for people to behave responsibly online.