Cases of WhatsApp hacking, blackmailing surge


LAHORE: As many as 2,302 complaints of online harassment, violence and bullying were received in last two years since the establishment of Cyber Harassment Helpline whereas there has been a surge in the number of cases related to WhatsApp hacking and blackmailing.

According to a two-year report, the public service helpline received 2,302 complaints from December 1, 2016, till November 30, 2018, with an average of 91 calls each month.

59% of the calls at the helpline were by women, whereas 41% of the callers were men, however, it is important to note that several men were calling on behalf of women. Facebook is the most widely used platform in Pakistan, which is reflected in the fact that 29% of the helpline callers experienced harassment there, the report noted.

In the emerging challenges, the report discusses that WhatsApp hacking is one of the worrying trends. It was mentioned that the helpline received around 90 cases concerning WhatsApp hacks during November 2018. “We urge users to be mindful of the information they share with strangers and also understand that passwords and codes are personal data and should not be shared with anyone,” the report recommended.

A case study of exploitation of minors through sexually explicit images on social networking platforms was also listed in the report in which a 17-year-old’s Snapchat ID was hacked to gain access of sexually explicit personal pictures saved in the memories section of the smartphone application.

Meanwhile, most of the complainants during the last two years were from Punjab (57%). The helpline received calls from Sindh (15%), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (3%), Balochistan (1%), Azad Kashmir and FATA (1%) and Islamabad (5%).

Commenting on the report, Nighat Dad, the executive director of the Cyber Harassment Helpline, “As we are closing the second year of the Cyber Harassment Helpline we’ve seen the great impact the slightest bit of help, encouragement and support can bring about. Our callers have reached out to us from far-flung areas of the country which goes to show that the negative use of online tools has impacted lives equally.”

“Our aim for the coming year is to increase our capacity and reach out to a wider audience so that the internet can be a safe space for all,” she remarked.