Image from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Woman_using_computer.jpg
Melanie was convinced that it was her friend Sandra who scheduled a “girl’s day out” in one of the most happening and upscale malls in Metro Manila. For one, a message for the meet up was sent through Sandra’s Facebook account. For another, it was not unusual for the two of them to go out. But Melanie felt a bit weird that Sandra planned the gimmick through social media, when Melanie could have easily been reached via SMS anyway.
Kaya on the day of their meet up, Melanie decided to text Sandra to re-confirm. Melanie got the shock of her life when Sandra replied that she has been out-of-the-country, even on the day the FB message was sent. It was later revealed that the person who messaged Melanie through her friend’s account was a kidnapper.
“I almost went to our meeting! Buti na lang I had this feeling that something was wrong. Although Sandra was the kuripot type who would not text me because my phone’s on a different network, she would text me when it comes to things like this,” recounted Melanie.
Obviously, Sandra’s account was hacked.
Securing one’s private (cyber)space
Hindi na naman bago ‘yang mga ganyang kwento. Hackers would penetrate someone’s social media account mainly to embarrass the account owner by posting messages, videos, or pictures that the owner would not post himself/herself. That is why it’s very bold and disturbing that unscrupulous people would use it to perform high crimes like kidnapping.
Dahil sa mga ganitong kaso, September was declared “Cybersecurity Awareness Month” by the government beginning in 2010.
Image from Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines Facebook account
Although the Presidential Proclamation was mainly crafted to protect the country from “cyber attacks particularly against its critical information systems and information structure,” it also enjoins the public to remain aware and vigilant in protecting cyber information.
By that, the proclamation means social media accounts, private and company emails, and other online accounts where personal or confidential information may be kept.
Users of web-based email accounts and social media, for example, are advised to recheck their security settings to protect their accounts from hackers and spammers. Here are some tips to ensure the safety of one’s account:
1. Do not reuse passwords. Sa bawat online account, whether e-mail, social media, online banking, etc, dapat iba-iba ang password para hindi mapasok ng hackers ang lahat ng account mo, sakaling ma-figure out niya ang password sa isa.
2. Change your password regularly. This reduces the likelihood that your online accounts will be breached.
3. Make strong passwords. Change entire passwords when old ones expire. Change them totally, not just a few characters or letters of the old password.
4. Use malware or spyware scanners. This is to ensure na walang programs that may extract vital information from your account or computer.
5. Do not reply to spam mail. Examples of these are notifications that you won in an online lottery draw, that usually ask for personal information.
Despite these reminders, many still fall victim to internet scams and crimes. The Philippine National Police (PNP) blames this on the slow implementation of the Cybercrime Prevention Act.
Ultimately, however, the PNP believes that it will be up to parents to control and monitor their children’s internet activities so that they will not be victimized by criminal syndicates or unscrupulous individuals.
Sadly, the Philippines is among the top 10 countries that produce and distribute cybersex and pornography all over the world.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) reports that minors, some as young as 10 years old, participate in cybersex shows because their own parents forced them into it. Poverty is the usual reason being cited by parents arrested by authorities.
On the other hand, older youth, especially those who are desperate for work, are easily convinced to take “job offers” from foreigners who neither ask for employment-related documents or unreasonable job requirements.
The DSWD and the PNP are urging citizens to be vigilant and cooperate with their local government units to help locate these cybersex dens that usually operate in the most unsuspecting places to put a stop to this crime against women and children.