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Cyber Psychologist Nirali Bhatia On Ways Cybercrime Occurs And Precautions Users Can Take To Prevent It

  • IWB Post
  •  June 10, 2019

Technology has progressed at the speed of light in the last 50 years, with new things being launched every other day, when one hasn’t even gotten the hang of the older device. And as beneficial this technology has been for our advancements, it has its own list of cons.

Technology is essentially a weapon that can be used for n number of different purposes that depend on the user. And one of the most obvious drawbacks of technology is cybercrime. With the rapid digitization of our world, criminals have also upgraded their MO and adapted it for the digital medium.

Cyber psychologist Nirali Bhatia has worked with victims of cybercrime for the past 6-7 years. She has acquired an extensive understanding of the technical as well as psychological aspects of the cyberspace and has worked on TV shows like MTV Troll Police to track down online abusers and trolls.

How to identify a person online as someone who might be bad news, what are the red flags that one can look out for, Nirali says, “When we are interacting through a screen we are not fulfilling all the parameters that the human mind is conditioned to gauge during a conversation.  It’s not just what you talk but also how you talk, your body language, your expressions, all the senses have to be triggered. While conversing on the screen, this is all missing.

So you need to keep certain things in mind and the first is your own state of mind while conversing online. Next is the kind of language being used. Maybe, if you have put up a profile, which says a lot about you, and if the person you are talking to is fitting every single requirement, it’s a big red flag. That means somebody is actually studying your profile and is serving you exactly what you’re seeking.”

She goes on to add, “There are different types of scams and crimes and ones like honey trapping and extortion don’t happen without planning, they (cybercriminals) will put in the effort of identifying the profiles of vulnerable people before targeting them.

You have to be extremely aware of what your profile looks like because it is only from your profile that they will identify you as their next target. Having stringent privacy policies is always advised.”

This is an addictive medium and someone who has gotten extremely involved with another individual online may not be open to others telling them to be careful. Nirali says that this behaviour is because of two reasons: “first is the way they package it to you, you’ll think ‘this is the perfect person why are other people not able to see it, others are jealous’.

It is the disinhibition effect in cyber space that makes it easy for people to share or say extreme stuff online due to lack of restraint that one feels when communicating online in comparison to communicating in person. There is instant gratification, which brings us a high, which is associated with the release of the chemical called dopamine. Any pleasurable activity you indulge in does that and makes you want to do it more and more.”

Being the victim of a cybercrime leaves the individual traumatized and struggling to deal with the situation. On ways to take care of ourselves or others after such an incident, Nirali explains, “First is to identify and acknowledge what has gone wrong. And then to make a complaint, they aren’t always about taking action; they are also to inform the police that these types of crimes are taking place. So that the cyber cell is aware, and if they know what kinds of crimes are happening they can have better security and help us better.

Second is to ensure that the victim does not constantly feel guilty and have thoughts like ‘I was stupid, I was careless’. This is very common; it’s the first thing any victim goes through. And then they get very scared of using that particular app or website, but that’s not the solution. Anybody and everybody can fall for it, even me, who works in the field as an expert. A lot of teenagers and young adults come to us filled with guilt, but we teach them to learn from this and how they can take it forward.”

Cybercrime

Filing a complaint is imperative, but not a lot of us might know how to do so. “Facility of filing a cyber crime complaint is available online. Also, visit any police station and file a complaint, it needs not be a cyber cell, any police station near the place where the incident has happened will do.”

Nirali also advises to remember to not delete anything; one of the advantages of cybercrime is that you can have a lot of evidence. In cases of financial fraud, one should inform two parties, the bank and the police. If it’s a high-value crime and you want to get it investigated, then you can hire a private investigator.

“And finally always talk to somebody you trust. If you can’t, approach a professional,” she says. “This helps in regaining your logical thinking, help you stabilise emotionally and you will have someone who will hold your hand and guide you in what to do next. The last step is, of course, the legal route, if required.”

A lot of the people using the internet aren’t technological experts and may not be completely aware of the consequences of performing any action on the internet. Once something is on the internet, it will remain on it, forever; anonymity is just a myth in the cyber world. The average user may not be able to access that information, but hackers and investigators surely can. So one must always be careful of what they post online and their cyber footprints, which do not get erased by deleting the search history.

Since cybercrime is such a tricky matter, there are a couple barriers to delivering justice to the victims. Nirali says, “Today barely there is any crime which does not have a cyber element to it, so the number of crimes reported is way higher than the number of police. And with the way technology is rapidly changing overnight, there is a lag. The system isn’t inefficient, but it does have certain limitations.

The first step in cyber crime case investigation for the police is to identify the IP address, thereafter it is the device used and then the person who used it. There could be various unrelated tracks which make the police’s task very challenging and time consuming. And then is the matter of legal proceedings which anyway take a lot of time and are out our hands.

Financial frauds are trickier, because recovering the money lost may not be possible because it is distributed absolutely instantly at various places. So the best option is to have insurances in place.”

Cybercrime

Giving the example of the recent ban on the TikTok app, Nirali explains the role of social media websites in curbing cybercrime and what role the users play in regards to that. “The recent ban shows that the government is holding the service provider accountable and saying ‘if you do not match up to our requirements we need for protecting our citizens then we will not allow you to be available.” She goes on to add that in her opinion bans aren’t the best way to deal with the issue, but at least it’s a start.

“Many a time the platform isn’t the problem, it’s the user themselves. The service alone isn’t responsible, there’s a human element to it too. The service providers do have a responsibility, but it isn’t theirs alone. People have been raising their voices for better algorithms that can identify certain red flags and the service providers are working on it.”

The users also need to use the websites and apps wisely and with responsibility. “It has to go hand in hand,” she says.

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