Millions of children around the world are at increased risk of online sexual exploitation, violence and cyberbullying as they spend more time on virtual platforms due to the closing of schools amid COVID-19 lockdowns. More than 1.5 billion children and young people have been affected by the closing of schools worldwide. Spending more time on virtual platforms can leave children vulnerable to online sexual exploitation and grooming, as predators look to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic. On this edition of the big picture we analyse how to safeguard against online predators, an important topic for UPSC.
Why RSTV? RSTV holds the significant position in UPSC examination as it covers the traditional knowledge combined with the current affairs. Here we are providing Gist of Rajya Sabha TV discussion on ‘Online Predators Putting Children At Risk’.
Topic relevance from RSTV Debate on Online Predators Putting Children At Risk for UPSC: Direct questions can be asked on:
The rise of cyber crimes
Major cyber threats
Cyber Laws in the country
Excerpts from the debate:
What is cyber crimes and child abuse?
Cybercrime is defined as a crime in which a computer is the object of the crime (hacking, phishing, spamming) or is used as a tool to commit an offense (child pornography, hate crimes).
Cybercrime encompasses a wide range of activities, but these can generally be broken into two categories:
Crimes that target computer networks or devices. These types of crimes include viruses and denial-of-service (DoS) attacks.
Crimes that use computer networks to advance other criminal activities. These types of crimes include posting of obscene photographs, child pornography, online theft of personal data, fake financial transaction, sending fake e-mail messages to get personal information and misusing personal information etc.
The physical, psychological or sexual maltreatment or neglect of a child is termed as child abuse.
Children are the most vulnerable sections of society and are easily exploited in the cyber world due to lack of majority level in them.
What are the major cyber threats faced by children?
Pornography: Exposure to inappropriate content such as violence of pornography.
Hacking: Identity threat and account hacking based on stolen credentials impacting games, school accounts, and social media. Children tend to re-use passwords more frequently than adults simply based on the ability to remember a password.
Vulnerabilities and exploits infecting a device with malware. Children surf the web with naive passion. Any compromised or rogue site represents a risk from a watering hole to steal credentials all the way through sites containing drive by malware.
Unsafe applications: Devices children use on the Internet are not up to security standards. Most technology does not get security patches after release and children do not click “apply update” as regularly as parents or security professionals. That little update icon tends to last a lot longer before someone actually invokes the update.
Cyber bullying: With the advent of social media, chat features in games, and other mass communication technology, cyber bullying is a problem worldwide and has resulted in serious crimes and unfortunately depression, suicide, and exposure of private information.
Online Sexual Exploitation:Production, distribution, and use of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) (child pornography), "sextortion," "revenge pornography".
Cyber Extremism:Ideological indoctrination and recruitment, threats of extreme violence.
Misinformation or fake news: On incidents of lynching due to fake news, the booklet cautions that fake news and hoax messages spread like wildfire on social media, it may create law and order problem and may end up causing loss of life in a few cases. Before forwarding or sharing any message on social media or messaging app, check it on other sources also to confirm its authenticity.
Social Designing: Social designing is a method utilized by digital crooks to gain one’s confidence to get information. Depending on what you like most, a cybercriminal may try to interact with you for information.
Why COVID-19 is worsening the situation?
Self-isolation has driven more and more children to move online during the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to an unprecedented rise in screen time and raising safety risks for millions of young people.
School closures and strict containment measures mean more and more families are relying on technology and digital solutions to keep children learning, entertained and connected to the outside world.
Spending more time on virtual platforms can leave children vulnerable to online sexual exploitation as predators capitalize on the COVID-19 pandemic.
The new online threats are also being compounded by the rising instances of physical and sexual abuse that some children are now exposed to within their own homes because of shuttered schools and social distancing.
Children used to go to school to get away from it. But now they are at home. The forced work-at-home environment is also hurting children.
What are the Cyber Laws in India?
Information Technology Act, 2000: The act provides legal recognition to e-commerce and e-governance and facilitates its development as an alternative to paper-based traditional methods. It seeks to protect the advancement in technology by defining crimes, prescribing punishments, laying down procedures for investigation and forming regulatory authorities.
National Cyber Security Policy, 2013: The policy provides for developing effective Public-Private Partnership and collaborative engagements through technical and operational cooperation and contribution for enhancing the security of cyberspace.
CERT-In: The Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) has been designated to serve as the national agency to perform the following functions:
To collect, analyse, and disseminate information on cyber incidents.
To forecast and send alerts of cybersecurity incidents
To coordinate cyber incident response activities
To issue guidelines, advisories, vulnerability notes and white papers relating to information security practices, procedures, prevention, response and reporting of cyber incidents
National Cyber Coordination Centre (NCCC): NCCC scans the country’s web traffic to detect real-time cybersecurity threats and alert various organizations as well as internet service providers for timely action. It also will coordinate between intelligence agencies, specifically during network intrusions and cyber-attacks.
Cyber laws at global level:
Budapest Convention on Cyber Security:
Budapest Convention on Cyber Crime is the first international treaty seeking to address Internet and computer crime by harmonizing national laws, improving investigative techniques, and increasing cooperation among nations.
It provides for the criminalization of conduct, ranging from illegal access, data, and systems interference to computer-related fraud and child pornography, procedural law tools to make an investigation of cybercrime and securing of e-evidence in relation to any crime more effectively, and international police and judicial cooperation on cybercrime and e-evidence.
International Telecommunication Union (ITU):
Headquartered in Geneva, ITU is the specialized agency of the United Nations which deals with adopting international standards to ensure
seamless global communications and interoperability for next-generation networks
building confidence and security in the use of ICTs
emergency communications to develop early warning systems and to provide access to communications during and after disasters
International Governance Forum (IGF):
IGF is a multi-stakeholder forum for policy dialogue on issues of Internet governance which brings together all stakeholders in the Internet governance debate.
It facilitates a common understanding of how to maximize Internet opportunities and address risks and challenges.
How to safeguard against online predators?
Set privacy & security settings: For minors especially, it is essential to have strict security settings in place. Parents should also be monitoring their child’s social media activity by becoming “friends” on various social media accounts and being present while kids are using social media in the house.
Open communication: While it can be difficult for parents to talk to their kids about online predators and sexual exploitation, it’s essential to keeping them safe. Beforea child is allowed to have any sort of social media account, parents and caregivers should be speaking openly about the dangers of online predators and cyberbullying.
By speaking openly with kids about the dangers of social media, sexting, and online predators, parents can better prepare children for the dangers of online activity.
The Coronavirus pandemic is not only a major health threat for the world, but is also exposing internet users to a whole new level of risk remote working software and online education becoming more common globally. Cyber threats often emerge during times of transition and disruption and the Covid-19 pandemic is no different.