Youth concerned over Net safety

Recent data breaches have changed their perspective on what they can do online, and what they can't
Last Updated 17 August 2021, 08:16 IST

A data breach can lead to sensitive personal details becoming public, and that is something that has young Net users worried.

For example, in the Domino’s pizza data breach a few months ago, a customer’s email, order details, address and other information became public knowledge. And more worryingly, the recent Pegasus spying scandal has revealed how easily spyware can get into your phone.

To mark International Youth Day (August 12), Metrolife spoke to young people about Internet safety, and they revealed what makes them feel unsafe.

Today, while everything is online, from work meetings to dates, it has become increasingly harder to step away from the internet. But many are using it with caution more than ever.

“After the Pegasus incident, I’ve realised privacy is a myth. But I’ve been educating myself about the dangers of the internet and being more careful. I keep my apps updated from time to time, I don’t open links that seem suspicious and I apply two-factor authentication on all the important applications,” says A L Manoj Reddy, 22.

Following the data leaks, he got off social media and reduced the amount of time on the internet. “Spyware like Pegasus is a threat to democracy, the ones in power won’t think twice before spying on their citizens if that serves any of their objectives,” he adds.

Increased anonymity and lack of accountability are some other factors that make the Internet and social media an increasingly dangerous place, say youngsters.

“The veil of anonymity that social media provides has turned it into a bit of an ugly place. People don’t think twice before spreading hate or being bullies, because no one is holding them accountable for their actions. This has a very negative impact on mental health,” says Usaid Mavad, 18.

Siji Malayil, advocate, believes that as more and more young people are joining social media and using the Internet more freely, cyber crimes need to be taken more seriously and stricter laws need to be put in place for the same.

“The age at which people are getting on the internet is getting younger today and as a community, we need to protect our minors. Government and other enforcing agencies need to become more active in making sure the youth feels safe on the internet,” he adds.

Priyansha, a 23-year-old media student, is wary of apps even if they offer end-to-end encryption. “Can these apps really ensure privacy? I don’t even feel safe texting people in the current scenario,” she says.

Minors targetted

Safa (name changed), a class 10 student, says young girls no longer have the freedom to freely post pictures online. “People often take screenshots of pictures of young girls on social media and circulate across various platforms. This has been happening for a while now and no action is taken against this crime,” she says.

Due to lack of accountability and also strict enforcement, it is the victims who often get punished rather than the criminal in such cases of cybercrime. To fight this problem, the youth needs to be aware of their rights and the various existing laws which can help them, says Malayil. “Moreover, in such cases, if a minor is involved, the authorities can take up the case on suo motu basis, instead of putting the minor through the traumatic situation of standing up for themselves,” he adds.

Pranav M B, communications lead, Centre for Internet and Society, Domlur, agrees that Internet users need to be more introspective of their internet usage. “As internet evolves and security gets stronger, people who are trying to break through that security barrier also get stronger. Just knowing how to use the internet is not enough today, you need to know how to be safe on it,” he says.

Need for digital literacy

While providing free internet connectivity and smartphones to the underprivileged has become a trend among policymakers and business, very little effort is made to ensure one uses the commodities in a safe manner.

“They provide mobile phones but they don’t end up teaching how to use it, how to be careful and safe. Barely two to three0ojm per cent of the population knows there are toll-free numbers to call when you get a phishing email or get digitally blackmailed. People need to be educated, just teaching them how to use UPI apps is not enough,” says Kishore Kumar S V, 25, engineering graduate.

Usaid received a message from Google last week, stating that there had been a data breach and some of his passwords were compromised. “At first, I didn’t know what to do, I was confused if I should reset all my passwords. We’ve never been taught in school or anywhere else, what to do in such situations,” he says. There is an urgent need for more technical education among the youth, says Pranav.

“Information on how to be safe on the internet needs to be taught in schools, but unfortunately we have not reached that point yet in our education system. But be it information on two-factor authentication or data breaches, all information is available online under reliable sources. We need to educate ourselves and those around us,” he says.

Tips to stay safe on the Internet

*Don’t click on links or attachments in unsolicited messages. It’s always better to type an URL directly into your browser to avoid the risk of being taken to a phishing site.

*Always use unique and strong passwords. Never repeat passwords.

*Opt for two-factor authentication.

*Keep a close eye on your different accounts for any suspicious activity, and contact the providers immediately if you see anything amiss.

*Change passwords immediately in case of a data breach.

*Keep your privacy settings on and practice safe browsing.

*Always double-check before making transactions online.

*Make sure you’re the only one who has access to your social media accounts.

*Educate yourself on the possible consequences of online speech and know your rights.

(Published 13 August 2021, 18:21 IST)

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