Cyberbullying on Social Media Linked to Teen Depression, Jeewan Rimal

Rapid expansion and adoption of internet almost in every aspect of our society has touched our lives in many ways. Internet has recognized as an integral part of modern economy, politics, government services and social life etc. Internet has uncovered huge prospective for imminent innovations and developments in every sectors by backing as a prominent foundation technology.




Most of our works including business, communication, study, research, sales, and marketing etc are now assisted by internet-based technologies. Diversified channels and platforms in internet like social networking sites, web sites, blogs, news and media, multimedia sharing, Internet relay chat  and other amenities has aided our generation surprisingly in order to fulfill our ever-growing requirement in fast, efficient and realizable frame.

Public present in social networking and media is even bigger than the cumulative population of China, India, UK, US, Germany, France & Japan today[1]. Therefore, it has been developed as an enormous force and global market place featuring a powerful common ground for social advocacy, brain storming, R&D as well as law enforcement to corporate investigation.

A brief development history of Social networking

Concept started in 1970s with introduction of CompuServe; a business oriented mainframe computer communication, its service expanded and made public in 1980s where members can share files, news and events. Later BBS (Bulletin Board System) came into existence, which requires dialing via modem to access or post events and information. Eventually, AOL created in 1983, after that  IRC (Internet Relay Chat) service and then group based discussion like yahoo group, google group begin and got great popular in around 1988.

The first social networking site, Geo cities created in 1994 with some new features like create website for user and interest groups into different cities[2].. SixDegrees.com begins service later in 1997.

The millennium year of Social networking sites started from the beginning of Friendster.com in 2002, it is believed as a new era of social has started from then. New social networking Myspace and LinkedIn in introduced in 2003 taking more professional and business approach in social networking. In 2004, Mark Zuckerberg and his team introduced a social giant facebook.com aiming to connect many US colleges.

Social Media in Modern Day

Facebook, Youtube,  twitter, Google+ are main modern market leaders in social networking[3], whereas Linkedin, Instagram & Tumblr has most aggressive growth in present market. Business, support, advocacy, relation, celebration are not a new content of social media.

Beside all classical motives, another trending fashion in social media nowadays is promulgating the political campaigns. This trend has been gaining high popularity mostly in developed countries. US presidential election in 2008 senator Barack Obama ‘s campaign reached 5 million supporters on 15 different social Networks over the course of campaign season[4] and he notably leveraged the power of online advertising by raising over $504 million from digital efforts during his 2012 campaign[5]. Donald Trump has used face book and twitter as a gigantic amplifier (more than 10 million followers) for election campaigns. The New York Times estimates that he has already had nearly $2bn of free coverage[6]. Similarly, EU referendum polls, hash tags in twitter, like #BackOffIndia and many similar other global acts of people in social media were remarkably effective and powerful to make an impact openly[8].

Facebook and similar other social media are eventually replacing email communication and such social networking has been affecting the revenue of primitive news media[9] by attracting and habituating people to surf social sites rather than a newspaper for hunting daily news.

Victimization, a dark-side of Social Media

The word ‘Victim’ was originated from the Latin word ‘Victima’; which means ‘someone or something that has been hurt, damaged, or killed or has suffered, either because of the actions of someone or something else, or because of illness or chance'[10] and Victimization is an act that victimizes or exploits someone or  Adversity as a result of being a victim[11].

Social media victimization generally is an act of using Social media like news media, Internet, chat, social networking sites i.e. facebook, twitter, Google+ etc for committing criminal and illegal activity thus harming, torturing or harassing other users.

Natures of victimization in social media

Internet and social site is an open and a big ocean of information and resources. Criminals and hacker has literally turned it into a gold mine to exploit user profiles and personal details for financial gains and social engineering attack. Several tactics and tools are popular to exploit social media users.

  1. Click Jacking:

Click Jacking (UI redress attack) is a malicious technique to trick and direct user to a harmful and suspicious link maybe to install spam or virus into user’s machine or spyware, adware to seal or spy your data and activities. Generally, attacker places a genuine like button, link or navigational/ emotion icon (like, love, thumbs up, smile) to trick user.

  1. Cross-Site Scripting attach (XSS)[12]:

XSS also called client-side code injection. Our social sites profile can integrate so many links of news, jokes, and events and so on. 1 million websites were linked with facebook in 2014[13]. When we click on such trusted link, hacker may inject a malicious code there. These types of attack can install malicious code in your machine, steal data or hijack your browser session. To avoid this most probably do not open a trusted sites via a link provided in Social networking sites.

  1. Doxing :

Doxing is the phenomenon to publishing personal user’s information i.e. name, address, education, work, relation and other information in publicly accessible sites. Normally these sorts of information are collected by phishing, stalking and other social engineering techniques.

Social engineering techniques :

Social engineering is art of manipulating or convincing people to extract their personal and confidential information.  fraudster use various social engineering techniques in social networking sites to fetch user’s information so that they can use those information for various purpose like stealing your credit number, Brute force attack in your bank account’s password, to misuse of your profile picture and personal information as well as to conduct several other cyber initiated crimes. Few techniques famous in social networking sites have mentioned here,




Phishing: Criminal sends emails and messages to targeted user offering various types of benefits like money transfer, job, lottery etc to motivate user to reveal their personal and confidential information so the scammer can use those extracted facts for future exploitation.

Pharming : Redirecting users from legitimate websites to fraudulent ones for the purpose of extracting confidential data. e.g. mimicking bank’s websites.

Elicitation: This is a strategic process of conversation with targeted pray to extract their personal and sensitive information without making them a feeling like Interrogating. This is generally performed in chat or in social networking site after becoming a friend.

Profile spoofing: In social media, (Chat or Social Sites) lots of attackers clone or masquerade someone other’s (mostly, of the famous person, celebrities, politicians or friends and family of targeted victims) profile including their profile-pictures and related information to freak a targated user and acquire important information or even for committing fraud in social media.

Rouge or Spammy Apps[14]

Sometime we encounter with an appealing fake app or link with attracting and emotional photos, video and message to encourage users to click there for more. That is actually a spam, which quickly spreads and automatically be posted on user’s social sites wall. This sort of spam direct user to another link or take user permission to see user’s profiles, which may insist you to install malware in your machine. Ultimately, such threat may causes infection in your machine as well steel your personal data and information.

Potential threats and liability

INTERPOL states, more and more criminals are exploiting the speed, convenience and anonymity of the Internet to commit a diverse range of criminal activities that know no borders, either physical or virtual, cause serious harm and pose very real threats to victims worldwide[15].

Crime committing in social networking sites is a part of cyber crime. A study shows that 81% of cyber crime has assisted by social networking sites like facebook and twitter, such common crimes includes:

 Child Abuse

A study have found that 59 percent of children are using facebook by the age of 10 and 52 percent underage children ignore age limit to use social networking sites[16]. This unfolds the big possibility of child abuse because naturally children are un-aware and less restrictive in order to protect themselves in social networking sites.

A National Crime Agency spokesperson, UK said: “There are many social networking sites and websites used by offenders to target children and young people. The NCA CEOP Command’s 2013 Threat Assessment on Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse highlighted that 48.5% of online child sexual exploitation reports received were linked with social networking sites, of which Facebook is only one[17].

Burglary Simplified

In a survey with convicted burglars in US, it has found that 75% of burglars are using social media like face book, twitter, and Google street view etc to find out targets[18]. Techno-equipped burglar keep watching on your profiles to find out your movement, special belongings and your outing on vacation etc to rob your property. Geo-tagging features of social sites may cooperate to such burglars and criminal to follow you and become assure of your current location.




Identity thefts

A study revealed that more than 12 million people in US victimized of ID theft incurring the estimated losses of $21 billion for a year in 2012[19]. BBC has claimed that number of identity theft victims ‘rises by a third in 2015. Many of the social networking media and email provider generate their revenue by collecting and selling user’s personal information which may causes user vulnerable of being victimize from unwanted advertisement, spam and frauds.

Malware and virus infection

Several Rouge or Spammy Applications, video links, attractive advertisements spreading across user’s profile have increased the fear of installing spyware, malware and viruses in user’s machine.

There were high numbers of Like Jacking attacks; manual sharing of fake offer and malicious contents as well as fake apps targeted to social sites users[21].

Simplified Cyber-casing using Geo-tagging

Cyber-casing refers to the process by which a criminal anonymously keep watch to the potential victim through cyber media like social networking sites, geo-tagged photo, video etc aiming to commit crime. Data stored in digital photographs (Meta-data) can help criminals locate individuals and plot real-world crimes[22]. Many Social sites have features to tag your current location (a Geo-tagging) with the post. Techno savvy criminal can reveal lots more to trace your movement and compromise your privacy from such tagging.

  1. Privacy is compromised

If you are concerned about your personal security and privacy, interaction in social sites requires to rethinking while posting. Only 25% user does not bother about their privacy in social media[23] but for other it may holds great importance because this may pamper your life. Many cameras and mobile phone has inbuilt Geo-tagging or GPS features in photo or video for some (in order) Cannon, Nikkon, Apple, Sony and so on.

Cyber Stalking or bullying

Cyber bullying and stalking (An aggressive act of harming or harassing other by using digital device, contents and channel); is a techno assisted trauma of a faceless terror by using email, blogs, bulletin board and Social Media service. On-line harassment, frightening and distressing phone calls, emails, spreading rumors about a victims in Web Pages are example of stalking. Sometime those online stalks may lead to off-line incidents of violent too. A study in US shows very alarming record of using social networking sites like snap-chat 46.6%, Instagram 41.7%, Facebook 32.9%, Chat rooms 16.8% etc for committing a cyber bullying.

Profile Cloning




Profile cloning is a common technique of hoaxer, scammer to trick another user in Social Media. Such scammer create many other genuine looking but fake user profiles alike to some famous person or celebrities and operate their fake account to trick common user. They attempt to be friend with the victims and send malicious or phishing web-link. With growing intimacy; scammer offers attractive schemes, jobs or any other convincing story and even ask financial help too to freak a user.

Communication platform for terrorism

Many terrorist group use Social Media for their internal communication, moving their groups, recruit, radicalize and raise funds, ISIS is one of the most adept practitioners of this approach[25].  The father of a Paris terror attack victim has filed a lawsuit against Twitter, Google and Facebook for allowing Islamic State (IS) to use their platforms to spread terrorist propaganda. According to a Mirror report, IS leader Omar Hussain used the social networking website Facebook to recruit members for the Paris attacks.The IS supporters have tweeted photos of dead soldiers with the hashtag #A message from ISIS to US on the micro-blogging site Twitter[26].

Social and interpersonal impact

Many people are criticizing social networking sites accusing for killing person’s social and interpersonal skills. A study found that one in four people spend their more time online using social media than face-to-face interaction[27]. This trend has brutally affected the real way of doing commutation and discussion so that Social Media must be an option not a priority. Password sharing with friends and classmates is also common among people. This invites complex conflicts and violence if un-wanted and controversial content posted by some in other’s wall.

Selfie has killed many people. According to a survey in 2014, there were 49 fatalities incurred by Selfie, study shows male are more fragile to Selfie death than female and India is in the top list of selfie death. Modern day’s people have desire for a show-up status more than real status and internal intellectual.  There is a greater desire to share with other people you barely know, than actually hanging out with friends and making memories.

Precaution and Protection in Social Media

  1. Be cautious while posting or clicking
  2. It is good idea to avoid your real name in profile.
  3. Think before trusting or allowing application

Carelessly trusting application makes you vulnerable of ID theft.

  1. Take a time to accepting friend request
  2. Use optimum security and strict privacy setting features of social networking sites.
  • Manage your profile and post publicity (Private, semi-public, full public)
  • Disable Geo-tagging feature.
  • Configure who can see you and your friend.
  1. Report or mark spam to suspicious link, video or contents, do not click instantly.
  2. Properly configure your machine’s setting (Time Zone, Location, Format etc)
  3. More information is more vulnerable.

Open profile with nominal information, Don’t display DOB or phone number publicly in your profile.

  1. Be conscious about spying techniques.

Best precaution is to educate own self about spying techniques and avoiding them.

  1. Use complex password and change it frequently.
  2. Type website directly than clicking on bookmark or link.

Clicking the link or bookmark from social media site may be hijacked with XSS attack and directed towards malicious sites other than the real site.

  1. Assume everything you post in social media is permanent and accessible for investigator, police, hacker or anybody.
  2. Access social networking sites using https. (i.e. https://www.facebook.com)
  3. Do not enable auto login.
  4. Turn on GPS tracking on your camera or mobile device.

Turning on GPS and Geo-tagging feature permits your device and software to create and publish your geo-location, which may void your privacy.

  1. Enable two-factor authentication if possible in your social networking site for changing your details.
  2. Teach your children about cyber bullies, spam, fraud, theft etc.
  3. Report problem to your senior, teacher or parents.
  4. Do not allow social networking service to scan your email or address book.
  5. Get updated and aware.

  Eight easy tips to identify a fake user account on Facebook.

  1. Account was created recently 2014, 2015.
  2. Account has no history published for earlier years, but Facebook says they have been a member since 2009, etc.
  3. Most fake accounts have 1 image or no real profile photo of the person. Some may only have a select few photos over a long span of time. A well-seasoned user would have more photos posted over a long period. A fake account may have 7-10 photos posted on the same day.
  4. User has very few friends in common and or friends in general.
  5. There is little to no interaction on their page with friends, few comments, likes or responses over their long time line.
  6. Profile picture seems too good to be true, that hot model added you today! They even messaged you and are interested in you!
  7. When in doubt use reverse image search. Take their image and see if it is a real person or not.
  8. When in doubt deny, deny, deny.

 Conclusion

Undoubtedly, Social networking sites and internet has assisted our life and regular activates from several aspects. With the rapid influence of people in those media also has attracted to criminal minds to use this global platform for their benefits, which will surely suffer to common users. Developer, government and relevant organization are working towards to making internet and social media safer so that many improvement and safety features has introduced. Cyber based crime are distributed, complex and anonymous to detect in nature. Therefore, the big roles are remains on that particular user. User himself need to have awareness, consciousness for strengthening owns security. Tools, techniques, and source of knowledge are everywhere. Be saved and make safer around.

Author:  Jeewan Rimal

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