Varun Kapoor, IPS
Additional Director General of Police, Narcotics and PRTS, Indore
The internet is a place of great processes and progress but is also a quagmire of nefarious and clandestine activities. The more one treads the path of the virtual space the more care and cautious he/she has to be. A slight slip and a success story can very fast get reversed into a tale of sorrow and horror.
Facebook is a great place to meet new people and make new friends and consequent relations. But here too caution is the key word. This one word has to be rigorously drilled into not only the minds of the children and the youth but also of adults, professionals and parents. This is because anyone can make a mistake. The virtual world is an unforgiving place and there is no recognition or remittance for age or experience. Just one mistake and one literally “stares down the barrel of a very short gun”!
I in my long experience as a cyber security advisor, inter-actor and writer have succinctly noticed that every human becomes a “virtual” child while he exists in the cyber space. By this I mean not literally but virtually. Their behavior, activities and performances are so childlike that it often becomes very difficult to identify actual children from these virtual ones. The anonymity provided by the web and the personal actions we take on our gadgets – reduces all adult behavior to virtual childlike behavior and a childlike mindset to further add to the woes. This leads to real danger for one and all and when even adults reduce themselves to childlike activities then who will fend for the actual children? This is a challenge and a new security paradigm that has to be dealt with. The only answer for this bizarre situation is awareness and nothing else.
The case of creating a Fake Profile to trap an unsuspecting teenager and this leading to a tragic incident is highlighted by a gruesome crime that recently occurred in Indore in MP. A girl aged 17 years got a “friend request” from another girl aged 16. Our children are involved in a fierce completion with each other regarding the number of Facebook friends that they have. In this blind race they forget to even analyze the safety aspect in accepting friend requests from all and sundry. The above described paradox of adults too being unable to guide their hapless children, ensured that the young 17 year old girl accepted this friend request. This was her first mistake.
It turned out that the 16 year old profile was a Fake profile created by a 22 year old youth from Mhow (a small town near Indore). They chatted for some time and after their friendship became solid the boy revealed to the girl that he was not a girl but a boy. The 17 year old girl still continued chatting with the boy even after the revelation. This was her second mistake. The third and final and most fatal mistake she had made on her Facebook profile. She had entered a number of personal information in her profile page which also included her exact address.
After a few months into the friendship the girl, who was a bright student and was preparing to give her IIT entrance exam, blocked the boy and ended the relation as she needed the extra time to study and prepare. This infuriated the young boy. He knew her exact address and so one day he landed up at her place and rung the bell. The girl’s mother opened the door, he had some altercation with her and he stabbed her five times. He then proceeded to barge into the room of the teenage girl. He had a heated argument with her too and ended up stabbing her with a knife 22 times! He then jumped off the second floor balcony of the flat and fractured his leg and so was caught on the scene of crime. Both the women were rushed to hospital. The girl succumbed to her injuries while the mother survived.
This ghastly crime is indeed a grim reminder to one and all about the pitfalls of unrestrained and risky behavior by one and all in the cyber space. Three mistakes in the cyber space led the girl to her death. The accused was also no big criminal but an Engineering graduate in search of a job and hailing from a descent family of a Railway officer. His obsession with the net and its contents lead him to commit such a gruesome crime and a consequent life behind bars or even the gallows. The lack of proper supervision and guidance by the mother for regulating the online activities of her teenage daughter led her to a life of sorrow and pain due to the loss of her loved one.
The worrying fact is that these incidents are taking place with almost sickening regularity. With the passage of time the awareness levels are not increasing at a satisfactory pace. Abdicating responsibility by the youth & children; their parents and the security apparatus has become the norm. Someone has to wake up and take up the cudgels for battle against these ever mounting threats against our children and the impressionable in the unguarded world called the cyber world.
The happy fact is that such incidents are totally avoidable and preventable. The triumvirate of self – awareness; self – restraint; and proper parenting is the real answer to the jigsaw of cyber security in this field. One norm to be strictly followed by all to prevent such incidents as described above is that “we should only accept friend request from those that we know in the real world”. The next norm is “even after accepting such a request we must cross check with that individual in person whether he/she has actually sent the request that we have accepted”. The third and final security norm to be strictly adhered to is that “we must put minimum personal information on our social networking profiles – definitely not our mobile numbers, email id’s and addresses”. Follow these rigorously and be safe from Fake profile traps – that may lead the unsuspecting tohell!