Protect yourself against cyber extortion

WE cannot afford to remain passive or act alone when dealing with cyber extortion. As the number of social media users has increased over the years, so has the number of cyber extortion and online blackmail cases.

“As digital citizens, we must be more proactive in taking necessary steps to be aware of and well versed in issues pertaining to these cyber threats.

“The long-term trauma is real. If parents of a child or adolescent suspect their child is being victimised, we urge them to report it,” says the Communications and Multimedia Ministry in a written response to queries from Sunday Star.

The ministry defines cyber extortion as the act of threatening to disclose private information about a person in public or to friends or family unless a demand is met or money is paid. It is considered criminal practice when the perpetrator seeks to obtain money, services or property from another person through the act of coercion.

Sextortion is a form of cyber extortion involving the threat to disseminate sexual or nude content of a target – and it is becoming particularly rampant now.

The ministry says that stern action resulting from the report can help to serve as a deterrent.

Apart from lodging a report with the police, the ministry encourages victims to also lodge a report with the app used to make the threat; social media channels and messaging apps like Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Telegram, etc, have online reporting channels that can be used for this.

After lodging a police report, victims can use it to make a formal report to the Malay-sian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC). Based on the report, further action under relevant laws may be pursued against the perpetrator.

The MCMC collaborates with social media platforms such as Facebook, Google and Twitter in removing content or accounts that violate community standards and terms and services.

For the provision of obscene content, action may be taken by the MCMC or the police under Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 (CMA 1998), where conviction carries a maximum fine of RM50,000 or a maximum one-year jail term, or both.

“The MCMC’s actions on online content are limited to offences under the CMA 1998. Should the offences fall under other Acts, MCMC will forward the reports to the relevant agencies responsible for those Acts, as well as provide technical assistance and support to law enforcement agencies in investigations, including for cases of online blackmail and sextortion,” the ministry explains.

“Cyber extortion is more rampant now as it can be carried out anonymously without the perpetrators having to face any real consequences,” says the ministry, adding that good digital fluency and etiquette are crucial to maintain the social well-being of netizens.

Here are safety tips provided by the ministry to combat cyber extortion:

> Do not send any form of sexual images of yourself anywhere. You never know where they may appear online, even if you trust the receiver.

> Tell someone you trust if you are being blackmailed or threatened. It does not matter how embarrassing it is or if you have done something you regret online.

> Stop engaging with the cyber extortioner.

> Preserve all relevant evidence and communications by taking screenshots.

> Approach relevant authorities for assistance.

The MCMC can be contacted at 1-800-188 030, or Contact CyberSecurity Malaysia’s MyCert’s Cyber999 at 1-300-88 2999, 019-266 5850 (emergency number), or download the Cyber999 app.

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