Beware of Cyber Blackmail

With the growing number of social media users worldwide, Cyber blackmail issue began to spread globally targeting all society segments.

The Information Technology Authority (ITA) strives relentlessly to eliminate cyber blackmail incidents in the Sultanate, either through continuing awareness programs throughout the year or dealing with all blackmail complaints received by the Oman CERT.

Although the global cybersecurity index indicates that the Sultanate is the first among Arab countries in the field of cyber security and third globally, the number of blackmail cases are constantly increasing. The blackmail threat exceeded the normal actions to having an organized groups targeting different segments, and that's what drew the attention of the governments in many countries of the world including the Sultanate to coordinate and cooperate with other countries in the cybersecurity field to address these attacks.

More than 269 blackmail incidents were  registered in the Oman CERT since 2011 and 161 of which are in 2016 only.

Usually, the blackmail process begins by establishing friendly relationships with the targeted person through chat applications, especially those that allow exchange of photos and videos, and then the blackmailer tempts the targeted person and records talks that are offensive to the victim. Then, the blackmailer uses this content as a threat by requesting a transfer of money or disclosure of confidential data or doing things in violation of public ethics.

The Omani law defines blackmail as threatening and compelling a person to do any act or wrong doing against his/her will, with some form of punishment if he/she does not fulfill the request. As for penalties, the cybercrime law identified in the eighteenth article a period not less than one month and not more than three years and a fine of not less than one thousand RO and not more than three thousand RO or one of these penalties. The penalty shall be temporary imprisonment for not less than three years nor more than ten years and a fine of not less than three thousand RO and not exceeding ten thousand RO if the threat to commit a crime or breach of the attribution of moral turpitude.

All social media users are advised to have clear information about the proper use of these channels and how to protect themselves from being trapped in blackmail dilemma. They are also advised not to share any information or data or personal photos in the cyberspace, and do not log on to chat and share personal data, where others can access those images or information and then use them negatively.

Week passwords (PIN Codes) are easy to be hacked, especially in the social networks, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. Therefore, I advise everyone not to browse unreliable websites, where blackmailers track users and steal their personal data.

I also call on all those who being blackmailed first: don’t hesitate to report to the Oman CERT at Information Technology Authority. Second, don’t communicate with the blackmailer even when being exposed to extreme pressures and don’t transfer any money or disclose bank card numbers. Third, avoid any clashes with the blackmailer and don’t threaten him/her with the police but at the same time retain any email messages or any type of communication to be used as evidence at a later stage.

To report any blackmail cases or any other cyber security incidents, you can contact the Oman CERT through the hotline number: 24166828 during the office hours from 7:30 am to 14:30 or the email: 24/7. Also you can report through the center website

Posted by Dr. Salim Al Ruzaiqi on October 17, 2016

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