COVID19: Complaints of Internet abuse on the rise

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There are increased complaints about the misuse of the Internet and sexual harassment of children online, Cyprus’ cybercrime chief Andreas Anastasiades said.

Head of the Office for Combating Cybercrime & Digital Forensics Lab urged parents to pay special attention to their children as the Office has received complaints about individuals approaching children for sexual purposes.

Anastasiades told CNA that with the increased use of the Internet as people must stay home in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus,  complaints have risen as has online fraud.

He said there are many online ads about offers and free gifts allegedly from reputable shops.

“Fraudsters are adjusting their action and are hiding behind the Internet’s anonymity.”

They offer gifts and make people give them their credit card details for small amounts for delivery purposes, for instance, three euros but charge much more.

The Office for Combating Cybercrime has located these cases and put an end to them.

Another form of cybercrime on the rise are cases of individuals approaching children for sexual favours.

“Our Office is on alert and we are investigating all reports.”

Children, he said, are contacted by people in Cyprus and from overseas, usually via Facebook and lately Viber.

Anastasiades also emphasised the increasing use of Fake News.

“We are trying to locate cases of Fake News but you must appreciate that people ought to be careful about what they see and what they believe. We recommend that the public follow only the official websites of the Republic”.

“These are the three areas we have been dealing with lately and we are calling on the public to visit our website www.cyberalert.cy where there is a lot of information about the situation.”

Meanwhile, Cybersecurity Adviser Alexia Christofi said: “These difficult days have given a new dimension to the action of cybercriminals”.

She told CNA that in addition to classic hackers, now there are more sophisticated hackers using social engineering to manipulate fake ads, gifts and offers and to obtain information such as credit card details, ID number, etc.

With the shortage of masks for protection against COVID-19, Christofi said: “We get rushed offers that refer to electronic shops that only ask for payment and shipping details to complete the so-called order. It is advisable to verify the merchant`s legitimacy by looking for contact details and contacting them for cross-checking.”

She also warned about cases where a “nicely written email is sent to those who are unwilling to provide their personal information, containing a link with a trojan virus that enters the receiver’s device, providing access to personal data”.

Christofi also said to combat the issue of Fake News, people should only receive their news from official sources and even then, double-check through the Internet.

“Our new reality is further pushing us towards the Internet. Our children must continue their education, we must continue working remotely and people need to communicate.

Therefore, special care is required by parents, who must regulate their children’s online movement.”

“Proper information and digital education are the only ways to protect us from the new dangers that lie ahead.” (source CNA)