Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Is Surfing the Internet a Crime?

It isn’t, but that is the very message youngsters in India are beginning to receive when political activists riot outside their houses and haul their brothers and sisters to nearby police stations. More so, when they are young, innocent and unsuspecting victims of pranksters as in the recent case of a teenage boy, from a suburb of Mumbai.
The prankster’s modus operandi is simple. Spoof the victims Facebook ID or hack into his legitimate one.  Post an offensive message against the political leader. Relax, and enjoy the drama which unfolds as the victim faces the ire of the leader’s supporters and is embroiled in a police investigation. 

This strategy was used by a prankster (or individual wanting to settle a score) to put a 19 year old lad in a state of emotional distress.  The boy was escorted to the police station by people he knew from the neighborhood in which he lived for the last 17 years. The cyber police after a brief investigation cleared his name.
Some of statements he made which were published in the Times of India show the fear and anguish his family faced:

“I was scared when the police detained me. I was worried for my parents and sister who wondered why using the Internet should land someone in the police station”

“My sisters (one in class 12 and another in class 8) were asking if using the Internet was a crime”
People affected by offensive posts are entitled to follow the due process of the law by filing complaints and allowing the police to investigate. But at the same time they must be restrained from taking law into their own hands and hauling individuals to police stations based on their own interpretation of posts and tweets.

To be safe from such problems remember that you are responsible for what you post online and the wider audience that views it. Do take precautions to report spoofed accounts as well as your legitimate accounts that have been hacked. The responsibility for protecting your accounts rests on your use of best practices while choosing passwords and while surfing the Internet.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Indian Politicians and Social Networkers scramble to check fake Facebook Accounts

Multiple arrests of social networkers over “allegedly offensive” posts under Section 66 A of the Indian IT Act has motivated pranksters and people seeking revenge to hack into legitimate Facebook accounts or to setup spoofed accounts in their victims name to circulate offensive and hate posts against well known political leaders, communities and Indian national emblems.

In an attempt to avoid being embroiled in tiresome police investigations or to face the ire of political parties- social networkers who searched for spoofed profiles in their name or found that their accounts were hacked into have started reporting such instances to the Indian cyber police.

The lack of clear guidelines about which content violates Section 66 A of the Indian IT Act has resulted in the flawed reasoning behind these arbitrary arrests of innocent social networkers for banal posts and posts from hacked accounts. It is advisable for Indian social networkers to proactively check if their account was spoofed or hacked into and report those to the respective social networking sites or the police.

Most online sites which accept user-generated content have a‘reporting’ mechanism. Sites allow subscribers to report others who violate their Statement of Rights and Responsibilities by clicking the ‘Report’ or‘Block this Person’ type tick boxes. Users can report profiles that impersonate them, use their photograph, list a fake name, that do not represent a real person or carry abusive posts. They can also report improper images, nudity, illegal drug use, the advocacy of terrorism or cyber harassment.

All social networkers should take a few simple precautions to secure there Facebook or twitter accounts as written in my previous posts titled Best practices for safe social networking and Thirteen Best Practice to StaySafe Online