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Cyber crime shield tips for pupils

Calcutta, July 14: If websites offering free songs are a risk, where do I download music from?

How do I know if someone creates a fake Facebook profile in my name?

Police officers and a team of technology professionals were bombarded this morning with queries at a workshop, organised to educate schoolgirls about the threat of cyber crime and how to protect themselves against it.

About 150 students from five Calcutta schools — La Martiniere for Girls, Loreto House, Mahadevi Birla Girls, Calcutta Girls’ and St Helen’s — attended the workshop at the Alipore Bodyguard Lines. They were from Classes VIII to XII.

The three-hour workshop dwelt on possible ways in which a hacker may lure users and gain access to their personal information. The experts also discussed some simple steps that can prevent phishing or hacking. (See chart)

“Students are very active on social networking sites and hence, very vulnerable too. They are net savvy and use the latest mobile phones and gadgets. We invited five girls’ schools since girl students are more vulnerable. But we will also organise workshops for boys’ and co-ed schools,” said Pallab Kanti Ghosh, the joint commissioner of police (crime).

The four speakers at the event focused on particular areas of cyber crime, such as email from fraudsters. “You may receive an email asking for personal information, such as your bank account number. No genuine email will ever ask for your credentials,” said Swasti Bhushan Deb, project manager of Calcutta Cyber Lab, DSEI, Nasscom.

Shehnaz Ahmed, a Class XII student from Mahadevi Birla Girls’ Higher Secondary School, said: “One of the preventive measures we were advised to adopt was changing our password every month. I am going to follow this strictly so that my account becomes less vulnerable.”

The students were also advised not to download anti-virus software or music for free, a suggestion that prompted an innocent question from a student. “Where will we download music from if we do not download it from free sites,” she asked. The auditorium, packed with students, teachers and senior police officers, burst into laughter.

A student from Loreto House said the session stressed several protective measures that many pupils know but are too lax to follow. “The professionals demonstrated how a hacker can easily break into our email accounts and do whatever he wants. It showed how vulnerable we are and how careful we need to be about our security question. We were told that we should not accept friend requests from strangers or chat online with them,” said Huisha Ganeriwal of Loreto House.

“They told us that it is always better to buy than download free from the Internet because it has a hidden price or loopholes somewhere that increase the risk of a virus attack,” she added.

Huisha said the experts underlined the need to install an updated anti-virus programme.

Trisha Kampani, a Class XI student from La Martiniere, said the experts advised the students to maintain separate passwords for all accounts “so that if one is hacked, the others are safe”.

“For the security question (needed to open an email or social network account), we should provide wrong answers so that a friend cannot guess or use it to gain access to an account. The experts also told us not to give personal information to third-party organisations, such as games on a social networking site, because that might enable a hacker to access our account,” she said.

A spurt in cyber crime-related complaints had prompted the police to organise the workshop. “Everyday, we meet victims of cyber crimes. We are flooded with complaints,” joint commissioner Ghosh said.

Murli Dhar Sharma, deputy commissioner, detective department (special), said: “We have received 70 complaints in 2012, while the number of cases registered in 2011 was 36.”

Most of the complaints are about morphed photos and obscene email, another officer said.