After Blue Whale, MoMo is the new online threat

MUSCAT, Aug 5 – After the infamous Blue Whale, an online game that played havoc with the lives of the young around the world, another ugly game, which goes by the name ‘MoMo’, is being spread through WhatsApp, sparking fears around the world. According to Oman CERT experts, MoMo is a viral challenge that asks people to add a contact via WhatsApp followed by a request to “commit self-harm and finally suicide”. The entire sequence would be filmed on the victim’s phone camera. MoMo challenge has been linked to the death of a 12-year-old girl in Argentina, making many believe the new game is an extension of the Blue Whale challenge.

“My initial analysis is the whole challenge depends on the phone number itself,” says Haitham al Hajri, Cyber Security Researcher and Expert in Information Technology. “WhatsApp and Instagram are owned by Facebook. Hence, giving out number on Facebook reveals a person’s information, through which users’ secure/ private information can be accessed by unscrupulous people for malicious purposes,” he said. Although no untoward incidents have been reported due to MoMo in Oman, IT experts have warned both children and parents about the killer game.

Al Hajri said, “Don’t click or activate any electronic links even from seemingly trusted sources unless their authenticity is confirmed.” Never communicate with anonymous numbers and e-mails if the source of communication has not been verified, he said. “Unfortunately, the digital world has opened up many areas of identity theft and exploitation has become lucrative and profitable for criminals in cyber world,” Al Hajri added. Therefore, never share personal/ financial information through social networks, he warned. “Don’t connect to unsecured Internet WiFi networks or public networks before verifying their trustworthiness.”

In Spain and some Latin America nations, a number of phone contacts have been spread via WhatsApp. It involves challenging people to communicate with an unknown number. An unknown person behind the account sends users gory images. If a player refuses to follow the game’s rules, he/she is also threatened. Reports suggest the killer game has fuelled comparisons to the Blue Whale challenge as well as Slenderman, a horror video game.

KABEER YOUSUF