The hazards of cybercrime have been prevalent and perhaps came packaged with the internet. With the pandemic locking down the entire world, internet consumption increased disproportionately, rendering many vulnerable to its frailties. The Internet has become a second nature in every walk of life, be it work or pastime to make sure social distancing is practised. Mankind has become so reliant on the internet, that it is dangerously close to driving us insane during its absence.
CONSEQUENCES Cyber fraudsters are making hay while the corona prevails.. Some of the common cybercrime techniques, such as phishing, hacking, cyber stalking etc. have seen a spike. Phishing is the fraudulent practice of inducing individuals to reveal personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers through fake websites or emails. Cyberstalking is a way to frighten or harass by sending threatening emails or messages.
Case Study 1- Mr. X who works in an IT firm, approached me for his mental health issues. This is his story - he was getting used to the new normal i.e., work from home. As he occupied himself with webinars and video conferences, his personal information like photographs, contacts and passwords were hacked, during one such program for which he provided his personal details. The cyber fraudsters took control of all his social media accounts. The couple’s photographs were morphed and leveraged this to make them enact some intimate moments over skype. This happened on a regular basis as the fraudster’s identity was concealed and he was well-versed with cybercrime and its shortcomings. This proved extremely challenging even for the experts to uncover the true identity of the fraudster. The trauma left the couple to grapple with guilt, anger and emotional turbulence. Life, which was not so long ago a smooth ride, became a living hell for the couple. After a month long struggle, the couple decided to face the problem head-on and sought the help of counsellors and other professionals.
Case Study 2- Financially motivated hackers have been making profits by making malicious claims and backing it up with supposed proof. During these difficult times of financial crisis and employment uncertainty, people find ways to save money in the best possible ways. In one such instance, one of my clients from a lower middle class family, had to work increasingly hard to make the ends meet. The fraudster lured him into the trap by making him believe that he won a lucky draw from KBC. To encash the amount, he was asked to share his account details. It was a well designed plot with documents and video as a proof, with his photograph and other personal details to provide evidence of his million dollars win. He was fascinated by the big deal offered to him.
IMPACT ON MENTAL HEALTH Exposure to the fraudsters and misinformation are creating a mental turbulence and is one of the biggest hindrances in our daily chores. It is causing victims to experience emotional, physical and financial trauma.
People are more prone to panic and depression and it is becoming increasingly difficult for people to trust others online. Post the traumatic experience they undergo guilt and suffer from insomnia and eating disorders. Due to the guilt, victims take the blame on themselves and develop the sense of shame and social anxiety.
This helplessness fosters irritation, anger, embarrassment and guilt. The victim explains “ I was unprepared. I never thought I would be a victim of such a crime. I feel I am violated.”
The emotional impact lasts longer in instances where the data of the victim are breached. They wrestle with their feeling of failure, vulnerability, disruption in sleep and low energy levels and take refuge in alcohol and drugs, which sedates and confines them from the negativity and helps the mind to be free from thoughts and assist in deep slumber. Conversely, the severity of after-effects can result in depression, anxiety and even PTSD. This will lead the victims to feel powerless and drains their confidence in the cyber world. Their preference switches from liberty to security and will result in the loss of interest in adapting to new technology.
FACTSHEET (Source- livemint) In the latest report, multinational cybersecurity company Check Point Research has made public the startling figures on cyber attacks. In the three weeks leading up to 12th May, the company recorded around 192,000 coronavirus-related cyber attacks every week, a staggering 30% increase over previous weeks.
The April-May period also saw 20,000 new coronavirus-related domains on the internet—17% of these were malicious or suspicious, according to the report.
PRECAUTIONARY MEASURES Being alert and taking extra-precautions and reinforcing the security measures can help an individual to insulate himself from the trauma.
● Ensure the latest anti-virus software is installed and updated.
● Use strong passwords for the mobile device and system.
● Backup all online and offline data independently from your system to drive or cloud.
● Check privacy and security settings.
● Avoid opening or delete the suspicious emails and attachments.
● Access only the trusted websites and softwares.
● Strengthen the home network.
● Do not provide remote access to the data present in your device or system.
● Be open to your loved ones (family & friends) about the experiences.
● Without being judgmental, seek the help of professionals. It will help the victim cope up better with distress.