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.

1 comment:

  1. This just highlights how a difference in cultures can actually affect the use of IT. In the US if my Facebook account was hacked and similar post were made, there would NO consequences for those actions.

    This also points out how important security, that many would consider trivial, can be. I hear all the time, "yeah I got hacked, but it was only my Facebook, it wasn't like it was my bank account!"

    Really makes you think........