Of Fakebook, hacking and other Demons

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It was perhaps 2007 when I first registered for a facebook account.  I remember my sister sent me an invitation and out of plain curiosity, I joined what I later declared the ‘ultimate time waster’.  To be fair, facebook is great fun keeping up with your family and friends, checking out what fun your friend had in that family vacation to Dubai, wedding pictures and facebook groups serve to keep family members updated who are missing out on all the fun, that newly born adorable baby born to your cousin, keeping an eye on your colleagues and especially those working under your teams and last but not the least, keeping tabs on the life and adventures of your ex-flame! With the advent of social media in Pakistan and with the sudden explosion of the ‘most used social network’, you see your mom, khalas and phupos, cousins, nieces and nephews all joining the bandwagon.  I sometimes tease my brother and sister that with our blackberry savvy mother commenting on most of our facebook activity, maybe it is time to move to another social networking site.

Recently I have known two incidents, of stalking and hacking of facebook accounts, in cases where the girls whose IDs were hacked were put through the mental agony of their pictures shared with a wider audience, including their family members, causing not just panic and embarrassment but also severe stress.  I am concerned because they were young underage girls, and when you are immature and vulnerable, you tend to trust people who you think are your ‘friends’, not realizing that the big bad world of the internet is inhabited by an entire network of individuals who will stalk you and who will comprise your privacy.  Facebook is the new tool for a broken-heart-on-vengeance.  Hacking somebody’s account or faking their ID is the new trend and if you are not careful, you run the risk too! There is a good post here on one of my favourite blogs, Deadpanthoughts, by Faisal Kapadia, that provides some good advice on how not to get hacked.  Another blogger friend, Awab Alvi shared the link to report privacy violations on facebook as I sought his advice once to help out one of the younger victims of facebook stalking.  This link is useful for everyone to know, just in case you ever need it.

My father has been playing a lead role on combating Cyber Crimes and I was discussing this evening of the key issue of vulnerability and what can be done to prevent damage coming to one’s loved ones. His response shook me to the core: he asked me would you allow your son to go out unaccompanied? I said, ‘no, in these turbulent days, never!’ He then said, so why should any parent let their children loose in the cyberspace where each link can allure him/her to anywhere they should not be. In this day and age, when parents who monitor who their child meets and interacts with, must not ignore the new social media, where the internet is interactive, responsive, interfering and at times disturbing like a strange man peeking inside your house through the window.

The fact remains that you cannot stop children from what is available out there as that itself is not a viable solution.  It only raises curiosity and adds value to the allurement charm of the new and shiny tools of communicating with a world out there. What you can do however is to be more aware, know your way around the privacy settings of the new social media and be there to ‘share instantly’ what your growing child would like to discuss without being ‘judged’ by you.  Else, you must remember that there will be ‘others’ taking up the role of the keen listener in the big crowd of the innumerable possibilities of the social media out there.  The choice is ours.

20 responses »

  1. Problem is that the more prevalent becomes a tool, the chances of it being explosed to unscrupulous elements increase – Facebook needs to seriously clamp down on these issues- btu even todate I see no “perfect” solution except to merely disconnect and live life in seclusion – but for people like us – its not possible –

    We must be weary of such attempts and report the offending profiles

  2. Your baba is correct; the internet is a dangerous place. I’m all for parents monitoring their kids activities, albeit discreetly without making the kid feel conscious of every move s/he makes.

    As for hacking and phishing (the technical term for “fakebook”), one must be very aware of such threats. I hv always tried educate my family members & friends on not being too gullible or to use easy to hack passwords. I myself hv used my basic password for 12 yrs with subtle variations to make it more secure. Not necessarily following my own advice of periodic changes but if your password is secure enough in the first place then you have no worries.

    Stay Safe.

    -Aly

    http://discomaulvi.wordpress.com/
    http://www.twitter.com/DiscoMaulvi

  3. Interesting thoughts on a very relevant subject. I like your perspective as a parent.
    I think the minimum age to be on facebook is 13, but some parents let their kids be on facebook even before that and for them its something to boast about: see our kid is so smart (and has such great english) that they are on facebook.
    I really like how baba has put it (no wonder we turned out so ok! hehe) and I do hope some parents read it and take heed.
    Another very related topic and something that you can probably write about is the importance of Now! While social media is great for keeping in touch etc, what about the present? the people, events, smells, sounds and life around you in the present? How can a mother or father who themselves spend 2 hrs on farmville every day teach their child any lesson about rationalizing their internet time, now or in the future?
    Before controlling their children, i believe that the parents need to control themselves. Enjoy the present and set a living example for their children to follow.
    I dont have children, but we try to set a non-digital time in the house: No Tv, No internet, No smartphone. Its easy to loose the essence of life in all this hype about social media.
    Dont get me wrong, I love facebook, youtube, gmail and I am in a stalker-obessesive relationship with my iphone. But i love myself and my family more. And therefore i dont let the social media circus take over my life.
    I do hope your blog makes some parents reflect on their actions before it effects their more vunerable children.

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  5. A good post! Living in the west and raising children,I can very well relate to that. One thing that as a parent I have made certain is that the computer is not personal it is a family computer………..meaning, in our house our computers have a central location. We dont allow computers in bedrooms. When the computer has a central location it becomes easy for the parents to monitor their activities. Whether it is a laptop or the PC I can see anyone on it. Even the upstairs computer is placed in such a way that i can sit on my sofa downstairs and see what my son is doing. Another thing which is VERY important is that the Mother should be computer savvy. If your child is at the beginner level the Mom should be an Intermediate so on and so forth. Our ever changing world of Tech has actually made the Internet in the palms of our hands. My son is after me to buy him the DSi which actually connects you to the computer……wireless. So it is not an easy feat, with cyber bullying on a rampage it is hard for the parents. What one thing a parent should do is to educate the child against the neagative impacts. My son’s school holds special days where the “go-to-person” comes and educates children against the negative impacts of the Internet. Believe me it makes a huge diffrence. If your child has a facebook account it is the parent’s job to read the privacy statement and make it as secure as it can be and then let the child go on it. If either of the parent is not computer savvy please think twice before handing out your children cell phones with internet access and computers in the room.

    Sadaf

  6. Social networks are not safe despite all the technological advances. However if one takes the necessary steps he/she can prevent any major problems. Users should be educated on privacy settings, password strength, password reminders etc so that they can protect themselves. I dont have many pics or albums on FB even though I know I can enhance my privacy settings. The key is to stay safe and not to give too much information away or to add too many ppl to ur list. It is easier to keep a separate profile for those you trust and those you want to stay in touch with but not give much away.

  7. We need to creat a force of “Warriers of Digital frontiers” to combat all this. In other countries this is being done by NGOs,Governments are always slow in responding to such social crimes. I am ready to help any one to take this initiative. I would have love to do it but my current priority is E-Village. An excellent expression by a low tech person.

  8. After my Fbook account was hacked I have considered quite seriously the “disconnect” you hint at. unfortunately social media may be adept at bringing us all together temporarily, but in the long run we are becoming more and more “excluded” for instance..how many friends called and wished you happy birthday instead of putting it on your fbook wall…

    We all need to realize that although social media is a grt tool, that’s all it is, just a tool. People are making it a way of living in Pakistan and that is not very healthy. Obviously we as a country have suffered in silence for some time thus we are now speaking more than necessary.

    Great post by the way, the internet is not safe at all…and must be policed..perhaps the bloggers of Pakistan with their ready made network can help identify new threats for an NGO who could establish a social helpline for such crimes?

    I may be talking way ahead of myself here..but with people getting so addicted to these forums..illnesses of cyber nature are and will eventually creep into our society.

    V.interesting to see that your sibling has an Iphone…I salute her!

    • I think you should speak to AJ about the idea of a social helpline for such crimes….its a great idea and definitely the need of the time.
      And about the iphone…hmph! Less said the better, says the MS loyalist…

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  10. Shaista, Im totaly agree with your father’s question. at the end its parents responsbility. the tragedy of our society is on the one hand we put un necessory restrictions to our kids and on other hand we give them total free hand..like madar pidar azaad.. 2nd problem is most of the parents are not good in computer related things, new generation can easily make them fool, so they have to be well inform about these things to save their children from these type of hrrifying things.

  11. What we need to teach our kids is Good and Bad sides of each thing and merits of staying Good and demerits if lured by Wrong. We can’t strictly discipline our children in this age by “guarding” them 24 hours a day but we can teach them Self Discipline by which they will guard themselves. And this article is a positive attempt to raise awareness among kids to surf safe and secure by using all available tools and methods to maintain their privacy.

  12. There is a very simple rule of thumb. If access to an account is merely based on User ID and Password, and you ARE worried about then post only that much information in that account so that if it does get hacked, nothing is compromised.

    I know, sounds old-fashioned, but I do blame people squarely who use weak passwords and don’t change their password.

    Also remember, accounts are not literally hacked most of the times, it is the common password that you use for Gmail, Facebook, Hotmail, etc. that gets leaked out, that makes your other accounts get compromised.

    I NEVER use a simple password. All of my password do not contain any dictionary word. I use numerics and symbols and none of my passwords are less than 12 characters.

    All this keeps me secure.

  13. Good thoughts on a very relevant subject.

    The social media is indeed a great tool and helps one stay connected with all the latest happenings in the world. Majority of us these days completely focus our lives around it. Parents themselves are so involved in interaction on the social media totally forgetting that they are also role models for their children.

    Parents most definately should monitor their childrens internet activity all the time. I myself have seen young girls hardly in their early teens posting up dozens of pics of recent events in their lives with their own mums and dads commenting on them. What i fail to understand is that have we become so modernised that we have forgotten what our values are or are we just maintaining the so called “status symbol”. Parents love buying their kids the latest netbooks just so that they can sit and brag about it in their “social circle”. Kids once given a free hand tend to get out of control very easily.

    I really hope that this blog post of yours helps in spreading awareness amongst parents.

  14. Lovely article Shaista and you have pointed out to the most common issue: the changed meaning of “friend”. It’s sad how facebook err fakebook has changed the meaning of friend and how most of us put up our entire lives online thinking we are only sharing it with our friends!

  15. Your post reminds me of this parent who couldn’t understand why his son was failing in Computer Studies even though he “spends the whole day typing on the computer.”

    You have discussed some very important issues of the digital world. Everyone has said enough about the security issues, but what touched my nerve is busy parents who don’t have time for their kids. It’s mostly too late by the time they realise what happened. Another popular trend is fake Facebook and twitter id’s. I know many colleagues who have had children faking them on Facebook and embarrassing them by posting strange and vulgar comments.

    Maybe it’s our moral and cultural decline which is giving rise to all these problems. We believe we are educated and educating our children, but are we really? Before I deviate further carried away, i think I’ll end this. Hehe!

    Great blog.

  16. Couldn’t agree more!!!!

    It’s scary how even “11” year olds are on facebook. I don’t know how many tabs can one keep on their children/younger siblings. The internet is too vast.

    Damn, it was liberating the day I deleted my facebook account.

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