I happened upon this deeply troubling story in the LA Times which I think highlights some of the very real dangers that exist online.
In Los Angeles, a man named Luis Mijangos was able to assume full control of a number of women’s and girls’ computers, stealing private images and in some instances using webcams to photograph and film them. He then used this material to extort more videos and images from these women and girls.
He managed this by tricking them in to downloading malicious software, called malware, on to their computers. This is not as difficult as you might think. Following the wrong link online or downloading a file from somewhere that you can’t trust is all you need to do. This is made all the more likely if you happen to download music or films illegally. You don’t know where these files are coming from and any amount of malware can be hidden within them.
Anyone can make these kinds of mistakes and I have a huge amount of sympathy for the women and girls who were abused by this individual. I hope that they all receive the proper counselling and support that they need to deal with this terrible ordeal.
It is true that the internet has brought us so many new and wonderful opportunities and for children and young people it is an unbeatable educational tool, but we cannot forget the very real dangers that exist in the online world. If people are properly educated then it will make the chances of something terrible like this happening to them so much smaller. I especially think that parents need to be made aware of how potentially dangerous unmonitored access to the internet could be for their children.
I hope that we can develop some real educational tools, not just for children, but for everyone, so they can learn the best way to be safe on the internet. Things like this BBC site are a good start, but we it may require more action to ensure that things like this never happen again.