Empowering Women in a Digital World: Navigating Cybercrime

This year's International Women's Day theme focused on women and the internet, continuing its long and illustrious history of advocating for women's rights and place in the world.

People perform nearly all tasks online in this digital age, including paying bills, purchasing goods, and even paying children’s school fees. We can get a lot of important work done from the comfort of our home. However, the online world also presents the risks of fraud, cybercrime, and trolling. It is crucial to protect ourselves from these risks as they can adversely affect our health. The theme for International Women’s Day 2023 was ‘DigitALL: Innovation and Technology for Gender Equality’. It aimed to promote digital empowerment for women and create a safe online environment for them against cybercrimes.

More about cybercrime

Cybercrime involves illegal activities carried out using computers, mobile technology, or the internet, targeting individuals, companies, or organizations. Perpetrators use various means such as social media, email, chat rooms, fake software, and websites to execute their schemes.

Types of cybercrime:

Cybercrimes can be of following types:

Email spoofing: Sending emails that look real but are not. 

Banking fraud: Using fraudulent means to gather financial information and stealing funds from bank depositors’ accounts. 

Cyber bullying: Mentally harassing people online.

Fake ID: Stealing or forging someone’s identity and duping their allies for financial gains.

Job fraud: Stealing an individual’s personal information under the pretense of giving them a job.

Online gaming: People can fall into the trap of fake links in apps and websites related to online games, which can lead to personal data leaks.

Online transaction fraud: In the case of online transaction fraud, your financial information is used without your consent to make unauthorised transactions, typically through phishing or other types of online scams.

Cybercrime against women

According to ‘India Inequality Report 2022: Digital Divide’, women constitute only one third of internet users in India. The report has been released by Oxfam India, a Non-Governmental Organisation. Statistics also show that women do not have enough protection online against bullying and harassment.

The National Crime Records Bureau reports that till 2019, cybercrimes increased by 18.4 percent overall. However, the crimes against women online have increased by 28 percent. In 2021, 10,730 cases of cybercrime against women were registered. Out of these, 2243 were reported in Karnataka, 1697 in Maharashtra, and 958 in Uttar Pradesh. These are just the cases which were reported. The real numbers would be far worse.

Role of gender in online harassment and victim-blaming

While sharing her experience with cybercrime, a college student revealed that individuals often stalk women on Facebook, subject them to unwanted video calls, send persistent messages, and engage in similar intrusive behaviors.

Despite attempts to ignore them, women still experience online harassment in the form of unwelcome comments. Blocking the accounts does not deter such people, as they often resort to creating fake identities to continue their harmful behaviour. Moreover, some people even go to the extent of creating fake profiles using women’s names and post inappropriate images online. Such behavior often either stops women from using social media or pushes them into mental health struggles.

Many girls and women are unable to report their personal experiences with cybercrime due to the societal tendency to hold them accountable. Instead of focusing on the actual perpetrator and crime, people often blame women for their negative experiences. For instance, they may be criticised for responding to a stranger, sharing their pictures, or even for simply using the internet or owning a smartphone. This blame-shifting behavior prevents women from seeking justice and often results in the true criminal going unpunished.

Protecting yourself from cybercrime

Given the challenges of documenting reports of cybercrime from every affected woman, social media platforms provide a viable option for reporting such incidents.

To prevent such attacks on yourself, you can:

  1. Report about a controversial profile, comment or message to Facebook, Instagram, Telegram and WhatsApp through their help centres.
  2. Check a website’s authenticity at the time of making an online purchase. The website must mention https, secure, etc.
  3. Update the password of one’s bank account regularly.
  4. Exercise caution while using platforms like matrimonial or dating sites: It is advisable to thoroughly review profiles and avoid hastily sharing personal details. It is also advisable to use websites or apps that include search filters, as they tend to be safer.
  5. Steer clear of websites that offer products for free or at cheap prices: Especially those that are advertised on platforms like YouTube. Visiting such websites can potentially result in the disclosure of personal information.

Complaints can be registered on the National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal. 

In conclusion, it cannot be denied that the internet poses a lot of challenges for women, with potential harmful consequences. It is up to each one of us to take responsibility for our online activities and ensure that the internet is used as a blessing rather than a curse. Through awareness and taking necessary precautions, we can help create a safer and more inclusive digital world for women.

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AYUSH for Holistic Wellness

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