Recently two teenagers have been questioned by police in relation to a cyber-attack on communication company Talk Talk. It seems unbelievable to think that young people would be able hack the private data of such a high profile company.
We now live in a unique era where children and young people are growing up as digital natives, where the realms of social media and the internet are familiar to them and the whole world is at their fingertips.
While most would agree that the internet is a wonderful resource, it brings with it a much murkier side. Facebook alone have 1.19 billion monthly active users and is just one social media platform amongst many. As the internet is a constantly evolving medium, it is incredibly hard to legislate and monitor. Hardly a day goes by without a news story about internet trolling, data theft or account hacking.
The Telegraph recently reported that new police figures show that 16,000 alleged crimes involving Facebook and Twitter were reported to them in the past year.
So how does this surge in internet crime affect students? We spoke to two Teesside University Students about their different experiences of cyber-crime.
Melissa Major, 20 was a victim of cyber bullying.
She told us: “I started working in a kebab shop when I was 14 and a group of boys started making up things and saying that I was doing dirty, sexual things when I was at work which is utterly untrue. They would attack me online calling me names and making up pictures with my face on. This led to my friends then taking the mick out of me.”
Melissa explained that the online abuse was happening every day and it made her feel isolated and alone.
When asked if she knew what to do about it she said: “Not really. I didn’t want to be branded as a grass.” She didn’t think about whether or not what they were doing was illegal. Melissa didn’t speak to the police about it and went to her mum and sister for support.
So how can you stop it happening? Melissa said: “It finally stopped when I learnt to ignore them.”
Her advice for anyone who is a victim of online bullying is: “Talk to someone you can trust, try not to let it get to you even though it is hard but it’s the best way to make them stop. They get bored thinking you don’t get annoyed by it.”
Whilst many people may not realise it, online bullying can be a crime under lots of different laws, as this information from Kent Police shows. “There is not a specific law which makes cyberbullying illegal but it can be considered a criminal offence under several different acts including Protection from Harassment Act (1997), Malicious Communications Act (1988), Communications Act (2003) Obscene Publications Act (1959) and Computer Misuse Act (1990).”
Rob Sedgwick, 21, is also a Teesside University student and lost money after his PlayStation account was hacked.
He said: “A load of Twitch.tv accounts were hacked, including my own. My account details for that were the same as for my Playstation account, which had my card details attached to it. The thief then spent £250 of my own money on my own Playstation account, and on Autotrader.”
He first found out that his account had been hacked when he logged into his banking app and notice a £50.00 transaction that he didn’t recognise.
Rob said : “I was shocked, and panicked. I had just been paid and that money was basically to keep me afloat. I had around £10 left in my account when the money was stolen. I also felt kind of violated, and a bit stupid.
“I think, apart from actually losing the money that one of the worst parts comes from not knowing if they caught whoever stole my details. They could still be out there, doing the same thing.
“My bank and their fraud department were really useful, and understood my situation entirely. Playstation were able to refund the money spent back to my PlayStation account, but not to my bank account.”
His advice to anyone who finds themselves a victim of online fraud would be: “Make sure to use different passwords and use secure payment methods like PayPal, rather than leaving your bank account open to hackers.”
If you are concerned about cyber-crime or would like more information and advice please see the Cleveland Police Cyber-crime section of their website.