Cases of cyber extortion are alarmingly rising in the Sultanate. In 2016, the Information Technology Authority reported 161 cases. Officials say the actual figures may be higher as cases are either unreported due to social stigma or victims may have taken the help of private companies and volunteer groups to resolve the problem. People should be aware of the problem and learn to tackle it head on. Azeeza al Rubaei, a social worker, said cyber extortionists threaten victims to publish photographs or confidential information online in exchange for money. The hunters track down their prey by scouring social networking sites. Once gullible victims are identified, extortionists try to get closer and record their intimate conversations. They may convince the victims to impart photos, videos and other confidential details. With the quarry firmly in their claws, the stage is now set for the hunter to claim his ransom.

How to avoid falling into the cyber trap?
Avoid accepting friend requests from unknown people and avoid conversations with unknown people. It is better to avoid posting personal information in social media. You should install anti-virus programs in your computer and use genuine software. These steps will help you to protect your computer against cyber criminals. One must not open or download any file from USB or Internet without virus scan. Children should be taught to use the Internet responsibly. Parents should make children aware about the dark alleys of the web and teach them to avoid cyber honey traps.

How to deal with hackers?
Don’t yield to the threat of hackers by transferring money or disclose bank detail. Buy time and put pressure on the hacker. Report the matter to the Royal Oman Police by calling 24569701 or the National Information Safety Centre at ITA (24166828).

Laws on electronic blackmail
The Royal Decree No 12/2011 protects people from cyber crimes. Article 18 says the penalty with imprisonment for a period not less than one month and not exceeding three years and a fine not less than RO 1,000 and not exceeding RO 3,000 or by either penalty, shall be applied to any person who uses the informational network or the information technology facilities to threaten or extort a person. The punishment shall be temporary imprisonment for a period not less than three years and not exceeding ten years and the fine of not less than RO 3,000 and not exceeding RO 10,000 if threat is to commit an offence or by attributing indecent acts affecting honour and superiority. What if one is blackmailed by a person outside the Sultanate. Article 2 says the provisions of this law shall apply to the cyber crimes, even if committed wholly or partially out of the Sultanate.

Siham al Saidi