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Sri Lanka Computer Emergency Readiness Team (SLCERT) has received over 1,100 complaints of incidents related to cyber exploitation and violence including online sexual abuse during the first six months of the year.

Senior Information Security Engineer, SLCERT, Roshan Chandragupta pointed out that at least 70% of the complaints were with regards to incidents pertaining to hacking of social media accounts and misusing personal details.

Speaking to Nation, Chandragupta said that the issue of hacking into social media accounts of women and girls and using their personal details to blackmail them had become a matter of serious concern in the recent past. He urged the public to refrain from filming or photographing intimate or private moments as they could be used against them if they were leaked into the wrong hands.

He said that they had received 2,800 complaints last year while the number was 2,500 for 2014. “The people have come to realize the seriousness of the issue and have begun to be precautious. However, the issue is still a matter of concern,” he added.

The civil society meanwhile highlighted that a lot of young girls who are victims of cyber exploitation and violence and sexual abuse on the internet continue to stay on in abusive relationships for fear of amongst other factors of informing their parents that intimate pictures of them including ones in which they are naked have been leaked online.

The civil society also explained that it was extremely difficult to tackle the said issue due to the lack of information shared in schools with children.   Hans Billimoria of the The Grassrooted Trust said that at present such takes place across the country and not solely in urban centres, adding that all that was required was that there be two youngsters in a relationship, a phone with a camera and an internet connection.

Young women and men need to be taught to be sensible by equipping them with knowledge and getting them to think about the technology such as Snapchat (an image messaging and multimedia mobile application which has a privacy setting of 10 seconds) that is available for use, he noted.

The question that needs to be asked is whether teachers teach the curriculum pertaining to health and physical education (which one could opine as one containing the most basic information about the male and female anatomy and bodily functions), he observed, adding that it was the embarrassment and reticence with regards to the subject that was also one of the factors causing and exacerbating the said problem.

Whilst highlighting the need for sex education (a matter coming under the purview of the Minister of Education), he explained that there was very little information shared amongst schoolchildren with regards to very practical and natural things. How many schools utilize the resources of the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA)? He questioned.

Are the children in the primary sections taught what is ‘good touch’ and ‘bad touch’? He further questioned.    “Cyber exploitation mainly takes on a peer to peer form. Further information can be obtained from http://bakamoono.lk/en/hiv/445/what-is-cyber-exploitation-and-violence. In the black market, there are subscriber identity/identification module cards and mobile phones to be bought easily. At its crudest, it involves widely sharing the intimate (including naked) pictures sent by girls to boys. The image is initially a symbol of trust and fidelity. In the event the relationship no longer exists or experiences problems, the said image or images are utilized for blackmail and extortion amongst others things. This is symptomatic of our pseudo-conservative culture. All these issues are interlinked. Access to information is of paramount importance along with care and support for victims. It is not just about prevention. One has to deal with the fallout. The victims when they find that their images have been shared publicly can state that the said images were morphed or Photoshopped, yet they fear to inform their parents. This is an issue concerning behaviour and relationships and therefore banning social media use in this case is a shortsighted approach,” Billimoria pointed out.