STAYING SAFE IN THE CYBERWORLD
By Roger King
Roger retired from the RCMP in February 2020 after enjoying a 24 year career. He served in uniform duty in several locations in Saskatchewan, including a remote northern First Nations community. He jumped over to his home province of Ontario, working in the drug section in Thunder Bay and Aboriginal Policing in Sault Ste Marie. His transfer to Bowmanville brought him back to his hometown, before his final four years in Toronto in National Security.
About thirty years ago, the world changed forever. The internet came into being, and now we can’t imagine going even one day without it. Do you want to know how to say “thank you” in a hundred languages? There’s Google Translate. Do you want to listen to almost any song? There’s Youtube. The internet is fantastic.
We all know that bad things also happen in the cyberworld. There are adults who will try to engage in conversations with children for horrible and criminal purposes. They are the child predators who are online that many youth have been warned about by school liaison police officers.
There are no shortage of scams online, and they are becoming more and more believable. Years ago, these scams were littered with typos and poor grammar and were relatively easy for us to delete; we would shake our heads at the hilarious effort made by these mysterious criminals. These days, even the most internet savvy users are often deceived; professional looking emails that appear to be from banks asking you to click on the link are now sometimes a ploy to get your personal information.
There is another existence in the cyberworld of which you should be aware. As a recently retired RCMP officer who worked in National Security, I worked on investigating and preventing terrorism offences. In many cases, these offences had an internet component to them.
There are terrorist groups all over the world who are looking to recruit and add members. The horrible events of 9/11 involved nineteen hijackers from overseas who came to the United States, took flight training, and the planning of the attack was complex and lengthy. That was almost twenty years ago, and the internet had little involvement in the plot.
These days, terrorists don’t need to make things so challenging. They can simply use the internet to plan and organize everything. They target youth who may be more susceptible to influence than adults. They do this in chat rooms and anywhere else they think youth may be “hanging out” on the web.
I have seen some of the messages that get put out there. These “recruiters” rarely, if ever, start off a conversation with anything that could alarm you. They will be friendly, and if they feel they have built a rapport with you, will slowly take the conversation in another direction. It could be political, it could be religious, or it could be an ideology.
They will keep track of all the online conversations you’ve had so they know what to talk about. And eventually their messages will become more forceful and even threatening.
If this is happening to you, or there is anything else that is happening to you online that makes you feel uncomfortable, it is important to stop communications with that person and tell a trusted adult. The police may become involved, but it will help you to stay safe. Above all, be very cautious before giving personal information on the internet. Use your critical thinking skills and ask yourself the following questions:
Have I given out any personal information I shouldn’t have, or been asked to do so?
Am I being asked to send photos of myself?
Am I protecting myself by remaining anonymous online?
Would the information I’m sharing on the internet be approved by my parents?
There’s a lot to think about when you work to stay safe online. Keep your passwords to yourself and remember that not everyone is honest in the cyberworld. Enjoy the internet, for all the right reasons!