Cybersecurity crimes by children on the rise

Muscat: A total of 35 children were involved in cyber security crimes in Oman just in a period of six months from January 1 to June 30 this year. In a startling revelation, Oman Computer Emergency Readiness Team (OCERT) at the Information Technology Authority said in a report that most cases were related to e-blackmailing, cyberbullying, fraud and revenge.

According to the report, minors between 13 to 16 years have been the victims of the cybercrimes during the period. In 2018, the number of crimes stood at 22. Speaking at an interactive programme “Protecting Kids in Cyberspace, Current Situation and suggestions” held under ‘Shorkum’ initiative on Monday, Aziza al Rashdi, Director of Professional Cybersecurity Services OCERT said that the number of crimes involving children has been increasing.

“We understand that many cases are still not reported due to the community restrictions. Addiction to electronic games is also a worrying issue for most families”, Aziza said. The programme hosted by the ITA in coordination with the Ministry of Social Development, the Public Prosecution, and the Ministry of Education aimed to highlight the dangers facing kids online, promoting parents’ awareness on actions as well as introducing the available solutions and tools to reduce them.

Wadha Salim al Alawi, director, Family Consultancy and Guidance Directorate at Ministry of Social Development said that the ministry received 10 calls in the hotline of child protection during the past two months. “Family is the core of the success or failure of children’s behaviour. Some families are not maintaining a healthy environment at home with regard to the use of electronic devices”, he said.

Saud al Maawali, Director of Public Prosecution said that parents should be aware of the laws and dissuade their children from involving in the crimes. “In many reported cases, parents have no clue on the cybersecurity laws in Oman. We have laws aimed at reforming juveniles and also providing justice to the victimes”, al Maawali said.

At the same time, Talal al Asmi, Director, Electronic Information Security Directorate, Ministry of Education stressed on the importance of spreading awareness about the dangers from the excessive use of electronic devices. “In schools, we distribute a questionnaire on the types of risks the children might have faced. Based on the date, we gather information and accordingly find solutions”, he said.

According to him, parents have a crucial role and should to monitor their children at homes. “Unfortunately, many children lock their rooms for hours and their parents don’t question them. Lots of children have plenty of fake accounts on social media and they feel free to engage in different issues in the social platforms”, he said.