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Crisis Response Journal Crisis Response Journal

Take stock of your online footprint and beware of threats

Posted on 23rd July 2019 at 16:41pm

In a world of every evolving cyber-threat there has never been a more significant time to consider your online footprint. David Eames provides a few pointers.

Contrary to popular belief, the demographic of people who are the victims of sextortion are males aged between 17-24 years of age and the vast majority of these cases go unreported (Kriangkrai Wangjai / 123rf)

As a user of social media platforms, are you aware of the private information you are providing in terms of consented data – the part where you accept the terms and conditions without really reading it? Where the vulnerabilities lie or the potential for compromise? Even without venturing into the murky world of the Dark Web, there are sufficient threats on the Clear Web to justify a certain amount of apprehension.

In recent years, on the whole, social media companies have upped their game in at least adhering to law enforcement requests for information and in offering greater protection to subscribers. But look into this further and the evidence is there to see; cases of blackmail, involving an aspect of sexual exploitation are on the rise. Called, sextortion, this is a sexual act covertly recorded for financial gain, sexual gain or control over the victim (see Blackmail, witchcraft and extortion, CRJ 14:3, by Andrew B Brown. Currently available to subscribers only).

Contrary to popular belief, the demographic of people who are the victims of sextortion are males aged between 17-24 years of age and the vast majority of these cases go unreported owing to embarrassment, a belief they will be ridiculed, and concern that law enforcement will not take the report seriously. This has serious implications. Law enforcement research has indicated that there are thousands of cases every year, leading to a significant rate of suicide.

The UK’s National Crime Agency has worked closely with the Ministry of Defence (MOD) in raising awareness. Here, the danger is that the victim could be the victim of blackmail and become an insider threat.

The message, should you be a victim of sextortion is simple and clear:

  • Don’t panic
  • Law enforcement will take the report seriously
  • Don’t pay the demand, as it will often increase
  • Do not communicate with the offender; screenshot as much information as you can and contact your Internet Service Provider (ISP)
  • Note the details of the offender and don’t delete any correspondence.

Even more disturbingly, the rise in popularity of apps such as Snapchat – which, for example, allows a message to disappear a few minutes after the recipient has viewed it – have led to the distribution of sexualised sharing of images among children. Other messaging apps, such as Wickr and Telegram, allow a short video message to be sent; by adjusting the message settings, this can be set to burn or self-destruct after a time set by the user.

While these apps – designed for enhanced communication with friends and family – are good, free and easy to use, there has never been a greater necessity to review your social media presence and, if you have children, discuss their social media presence with them.

The author will be exploring this topic in more depth in CRJ 14:4.

 

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