Saturday, September 20, 2014

Why countries where porn is illegal do not ban Internet porn sites?

It is quite well known that except for a very few countries that allow it, in most others the creation, distribution and consumption of pornographic content is not permissible. Actually, it is illegal and usually punishable with a prison sentence. Governments which allow porn, benefit from the 100 billion dollar or more Internet pornographic industry.
Today, the concept of soft porn which raged in the eighties no longer exists; it has been replaced by what we call sensual advertising. What is easily available on the Internet is hard porn showing erotic fantasies and sometimes violent or abusive sexual acts. Most of the pornographic sites do not even have the mandatory age notification and directly host hard porn on their home page. The ill effects of pornographic content on impressionable young children, starting from as early an age of eleven, are well known. Normal relationships and sexual acts are redefined, and as a consequence unnatural sex such as anal sex is on the rise.  It is a documented statistic that such acts reshape the perception of women in society and have led to a rise in cases of sexual misconduct and violence.  

Mobile phones and fast internet connections are making it easier for children to consume porn at odd hours, in schools and colleges and everywhere else. Entrepreneurial shopkeepers in India have seized on a business opportunity to sell preloaded memory cards with downloaded pornographic content to their customers who do not have an Internet connection. Instant messaging apps have made it easier to sext- sending nude or seminude selfies to partners. In many countries a nude selfie would actually contravene the law and one taken by an underage child would invoke the harsher penalty of child pornography.
Most companies rely on content filtering technologies and strict penalties to block pornographic sites. They are quite successful in blocking porn use with the added benefit of limiting exposure to malware that is normally found on illegitimate sites. Similar technologies, though not fool proof, can block the casual user from stumbling on pornographic material. Most countries have already mandated their telecom service providers to install technology to filter Internet sites based on court or government directives, as it is difficult to shut down sites hosted on Internet servers in other countries. True, these filters can be bypassed by proxies and there is the difficulty of pinning down the addresses of fast moving illegal pornographic sites but it would still restrict usage. Porn censorship will certainly limit the use of pornography, much in the away that prohibition cuts down alcohol consumption, though it still remains available through a thriving black market.

Personally, I believe the big reason why governments fail to censor is because of the assumed effect on their vote bank. Young voters in the digital age consider paramount their “freedom of expression online”. In reality, most of these digital citizens are themselves concerned as to the ill effects of pornography and would endorse any attempt to filter these sites, provided the decisions to filter are made transparently.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Terrorist and antisocials use Twitter to spread their ideology, spark hate or to gain notoriety

Militants from Islamic State (Isis) are so dependent on broadcast sites like Twitter that they recently threatened to kill Twitter employees if they continue to shut down their accounts used for propaganda. The group use hashtags of major events such as the World Cup to disseminate pro-Isis content, in addition to using various Isis-specific hashtags. Hashtags such as #WorldCup2014 allow Twitter users to easily search for related content.
As cybercitizens increasingly use closed group instant messaging channels like WhatsApp for their private conversations, twitter still remains a favorite public broadcast medium for extremist groups who propound their ideology to gain more recruits or to establish legitimacy, politicians who generate hate campaigns to polarize and gain votes, and individuals who deliberately write sensational comments to draw attention to themselves.

The ability of Twitter to police rogue usage is minimal. Many times their posts fall in “grey” areas of offensive versus inoffensive content, making it difficult to moderate. In most cases, deletion or inactivation of accounts happens much after the damage has occurred. This does not prevent the perpetrators from establishing alternate or slightly different twitter id’s to resume their propaganda.  Most of these rogue accounts cannot be acted upon by law enforcement because those countries from where they operate do not have effective law enforcement or they do not consider it a crime yet.

Inciteful posts have high impact, and are often unsubstantiated. Being public broadcasts they rapidly go viral and reach a large global audience. Posts such as those sent by ISIS have been effective in influencing youngster to join their ranks from across the world. Youngsters, taken up by these messages sign up for a cause from which there is no return even when the harsher realization dawns.

Governments, have an active interest to not bar these tweets, as they form a rich source of real-time information, in many ways more useful than covert intelligence. Sympathizers in countries with effective law enforcement may put themselves into trouble, if they draw attention through retweet or likes.  Of late, governments have attempted to spread counter messages to negate the effect of these broadcasts.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Indian Internet Addicts: Boy stabs mom for cutting internet access while another finds a Facebook Mom

It takes shocking incidents to bring to fore what is a rapidly growing problem with children; a predisposition to the excessive use of the Internet while avoiding studies, social interactions and physical activity. Recently in the Indian city of Pune, a 15-year-old student addicted to the Internet turned violent and tried to attack his teacher mother with a kitchen knife when she tried to take away his smartphone. The student spent hours on different messaging platforms and had around 500 friends, most of whom he had never met in person.  He even borrowed money from nearby shopkeepers to recharge his mobile. The boy was so addicted that after being taken for counselling he stripped naked in protest at the hospital and threatened to harm himself if his net access was taken away.
Online chatting offers children a way to escape emotional problems and they start to think that these online friends care for them more than their parents. Imagine the confusion last week in another part of India, when a twenty year old decided that an elderly nurse he met on Facebook was his “mother” and wanted to swap his real parents for her. The Facebook mom landed up at her “son’s” door, to add to the confusion of his parents, where he clasped her hand and expressed a desire to go with her.

According to Indian psychologists and child counsellors there is a 40 per cent year-on-year rise in the number of Internet addicts aged between 8 and 18, driven by the easy access to technology, peer pressure and messaging apps.
The most common form of Internet addictions are cybersex, online gaming, and cyber-relationships.

  • Cybersex is the compulsive use of Internet pornography and adult chat rooms. 
  •  Cyber-Relationship addiction is an addiction to social networking, chat rooms, texting, and messaging. 
  • Online Gaming  addiction is compulsive online gaming with virtual friends and currency. 
To find out is your child is vulnerable to Internet addiction, watch for these behavioral changes:

  • Becomes irritable or agitated when time online is interrupted. In the case of the Pune student he turned violent, threatened to harm himself and even stripped naked.
  • Withdrawal from activities that involve socialization with real people. Most addicts isolate themselves from people and spend most of their time with virtual friends
  • Spends a lot of time online at all or odd hours. Addicts constantly message driven by the urge to respond to their online constituency instantly. They carry their phone everywhere even to the toilet.
The only way to prevent such situations is to build an open relationship with your child, while limiting technology use, constantly watching for signs on addiction and to the extent possible supervising online behavior.  At the outset, set the rules of Internet use clearly distinguishing between productive Internet use for homework and nonproductive use such as social networking. Timely intervention could help prevent and reduce cases of Internet addiction

Friday, September 12, 2014

Speaking@I5Talks on Building a cyber-resilient & secure cyber space for industry and cyber citizens

It was a great delight to speak at the Tenth Edition of i5 Talks on “Building a cyber-resilient & secure cyber space for industry and cyber citizens " organized by Tech Mahindra.   The talks brought together insightful perspectives from the leading lights of the Indian security industry in vibrant talks and panel discussions. Speakers included eminent CISO’s, entrepreneurs, researchers, bloggers, consultants and hackers. I spoke on the three big risks to cyber security and resilience. The first was, what happens to a nation if the power grid is shot down by cyber-attacks and fails for long durations, the second demonstrated how exposed cyber citizens are due to the ubiquitous and seamless use of cloud storage and thirdly, the high level of organizational skill and investment, cyber criminals put in to commit high value cybercrime on financial institutions. A short summary of the speakers and their takeaways are:

Aseem Jhakar -  Director , Payatu Technologies
  • Lack of communication between the hacker community and the industry is a big problem. Hackers are seem as untouchables except when they are needed he most
  • Bug bounty trends are increasing and rewards are sufficient to sustain a hacker’s income
  • Industry has maligned the word “hacker”. Today, the word and community is associated with criminals.

Vishal Salvi Chief Information Security Officer, HDFC
  • Companies need to transform and build a new security architecture to meet new and emerging threats
  • Industry competitors need to collaborate to build secure supply chains to ensure that common suppliers do not skip investing in security
  • Agile security should be the new paradigm. The current models of reacting to incidents or building defense in depth is too slow to combat the spate of attacks
  • Security is today beyond CIA and assets – looks towards the business

Keith Prabhu, Chairman, Cloud Security Alliance, Mumbai chapter
  • We need to brave the risks of using the cloud by using secure technology. We cannot go back to the bullock cart age because cars today are unsafe
  • It is a matter of time before we see the first big attack on a cloud provider. They are a big target that cybercriminals cannot ignore
  • The case of a refrigerator sending spam, is simply the tip of the iceberg as far as the Internet of things is concerned

Dr Zia Saquib, ED CDAC
  • The Indian Government is researching on the use of alternate protocols to IP for setting up our secure critical infrastructure like nuclear stations
  • The Indian Government has allocated large funds to the enhancement of IT and security

Shomiron Dasgupta, founder NetMonastery
  • Entrepreneurship is difficult and needs perseverance
  • Signal protection will be the next security wave

LS Subramaniam CEO NISE and Blogger
  • Consumer education is a must to thwart cloud risks as they are easy prey for social engineering attacks

Puneet Garkhel, Head-Fraud Risk Practice, Mahindra Special Services Group
  • Many miss the gorilla in the room when focusing on routine tasks
  • Fraud happens because enterprises miss the obvious