By Anton Scott.

Major operating systems such as Windows, Mac and Linux have never been as secure as some may believe them to be. As with any system, the main point of vulnerability is often the user; opening the wrong link/attachment, vising the wrong site, and installing suspicious software can open the floodgates for malware. These are all examples that a non-aware user can fall prey to, and in a world of growing cyber-threats, individuals & companies alike must take more precautions to avoid being targeted and taken advantage of.

Virtualisation is becoming a standard for many corporations as it provides an extra, solidified layer of defence in the event of a breach. Whilst most files or programs you open will run on your “Host” machine, virtualisation provides an isolated bubble for your OS to run in, by dedicating sectors of your hardware to create a virtual machine (VM).

Containment

This is a highly effective method of elevating your device’s security as any rogue programs running on the system will be limited to and only to the virtualised environment. Take this analogy for example. When a virus invades your body, your immune system triggers a response for white blood cells to encapsulate and isolate the foreign entity in order to prevent the spread and further damage the virus could cause to your body. This is exactly the case in the event of a virus, worm or type of malware infecting your computer system; The threat is contained within the VM and can therefore not spread or damage your host machine, which may contain your important files & personal data.

Resilience

VM’s also provide a convenient feature called “snapshotting”, where the state of the system can essentially be saved at any chosen time (known as taking a snapshot), then restored to a previous snapshot when required. This is specifically useful following a mishap such as a system failure or type of breach, as the machine can be reverted to its last known working state. Your presets & files will remain intact and your future self will thank you for it.

Privacy

Furthermore, if you are concerned with the growing issue of your online data being collected and sold by devious conglomerates (a sad but inevitable truth), you may be able to put your mind at ease by utilising a VM. “Fingerprinting” or “profiling” is a common way in which services online tie your devices and data to your identity and is used to predict your online habits, log your preferences and recommend you products/services. An entire online profile is built uniquely for you, hence the name “fingerprinting”.  Although quite impossible to avoid once you already have an online presence, operating systems like ’Whonix’ can run in a VM to promote anonymity online by relaying your network traffic through anonymous networks such as Tor.

Such setups require time to configure but can be useful if you’re serious about masking your identity online & giving a middle finger to the prying data harvesters. Ultimately, VMs are very practical systems which can offer the everyday user an elevated level of security which in turn can promote ease of mind. They are not compulsory by any means, but the growing use of them is a step in the right direction to limiting the damage caused by cyber-threats. And of course, it always helps to remember – if you protect your system, you protect yourself.

By Atul Periwal.

Women play a key role in transformative cultural, environmental and social changes essential for sustainable development. Occupying a critical function, any mistreatment or subjugation of her reputation was seen as disrespectful, not just to her but to society as a whole. Yet the same doesn’t seem to be the case a few millenniums later. 

Whereas the world is struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic, it is evident that the expansion of the internet and the growing number of internet users have somewhere directly contributed to the increase in cyber space crime against women. Cyber crime is a criminal offence where the computer, computer network or networked device is being targeted or used as a tool to commit any offence. Cybercrime is often perpetrated but not always by cybercriminals or hackers who want to make money. Cybercrime can be carried out by individuals or organizations. If we speak about prosecuting these offenders, we have various cyber crime laws and even though they are backed by several other legislation, they do not have a clear mechanism to deal effectively with cybercrimes against women. 

Cyber crimes against women: Classification 

1. Harassment via E-mail – Harassment through email involves blackmailing, intimidating and persistent sending of anonymous identities of love letters or daily sending of humiliating mails. 

2. Cyber stalking: Stalkers are encouraged by the privacy provided by the Internet. Criminals can be on the other side of the earth, or a neighbour next door, or a relative close by! It includes tracking the movements of a person over the Internet by posting messages on the victim’s frequently visited bulletin boards, attempting to enter the victim’s visited chat rooms, continuously inundating the perpetrator with emails, etc. The stalker aims to inflict emotional harm in general and has no clear motive for his communications. 

3. Cyber pornography: It refers to sexually explicit material being circulated, made, edited, published or posted. 

4. Cyber defamation: Also known as cyber smearing, can be understood as a deliberate violation of the right to ‘another person’s good name. ‘Cyber Defamation takes place with the aid of computers and/or the Internet. Because of its speedy existence, it is deemed more of a hazard. 

5. Cyber grooming: Cyber grooming is when a person develops an online relationship with a new person and bribes or forces him/her into sexual acting. 

6. Cyber bullying: A type of abuse or abuse caused by the use of electronic or communication devices such as computers, cell phones, laptops, etc. 

Separation of some types of cyber crimes is very difficult because constituent acts involving one type can correlate with actions involving another type. However, the following guidelines are applicable when we address cybercrimes against women.

Criminal Offence Provision (India, UK, USA) 
Harassment –       Section 354A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860  –       Harassment Act 1997  –       The Civil Rights Act of 1964    
Cyber Stalking –       Section 354D of the Indian Penal Code, 1860  –       Harassment Act 1997  –        Violence Against Women Act 
Child pornography –       Section 67B of the Information Technology Act, 2000  –       2003 Communications Act  –       Section 2251 of Title 18 of the United States 
Defamation –       Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860  –       Defamation Act 2013  –       Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 
Cyber grooming –       Section 67B(c) of Information Technology Act, 2008  –        s.15A of the Sexual Offences Act 2003  –        18 U.S.C. § 2422 
Cyber bullying –       354A and 354D of Indian Penal Code  –        Harassment Act 1997  –         

Did COVID-19 worsen the situation for women? 

Cyber crime is more horrific and devastating for women than men according to a Pew Research Centre survey in the US. The increased prevalence of cybercrimes toward women is not an issue for a particular country. A study of more than 9000 German Internet users (between the ages of 10 and 15) revealed that women are particularly susceptible than men to cybercrimes such as online sexual harassment and cyber stalking. According to the survey, women between the ages of 18 and 24 experience cyber-harassment disproportionately. It is assumed that the average screen time has grown dramatically with work from home and being restricted to limited physical space. Besides, the CSC e-Governance Services observed an increase in internet services use from 2.7 TB (March 10) to 4.7 TB (March 30) respectively. 

Suggestion 

–       Encourage women to consider cyber security as a discipline, and our school system will deliver the educational process from middle school at least. 

–       Conducting qualitative and quantitative research to recognize victims’ issues and recommend suitable solutions. 

–       Formulation and enforcement of a policy to avoid the exposure of the identity of the victims in these cases. 

–       Give them the experience: hire a female intern. 

–       Scholarships and role models for women in this field. 

–       Render constructive discrimination by consciously hiring. 

–       Leverage the role models of women leaders and those coming into cyber security today.