Cyber-blackmail targeting young people is increasing.

University of Gloucestershire launches blackmail safety guide to mark ‘Safer Internet Day’

Cyber-blackmail targeting young people is increasing rapidly, warn experts at University of Gloucestershire, who have designed a special guide to help students and others avoid becoming victims of online extortion.

The new ‘University of Gloucestershire Guide to Online Safety’ contains 20 tips on the latest cyber-scams and how to stay safe, with a special focus on responding to threats ranging from ransomware and defamation, through to fraud and sextortion.

The development follows data showing that ‘Gen Zers,’ aged 18 to 24 across the US, UK, and Canada, report higher cybercrime victimisation rates than older generations.

Gen Z has the highest victimisation rates for phishing and cyberbullying and the second-highest rates for identity theft and romance scams after Millennials (anyone born from 1965 to 1980) – according to the ‘Oh Behave! Annual Cybersecurity Attitudes and Behaviours Report 2022.’

The University of Gloucestershire Guide has also been timed to mark the return of the annual ‘Safer Internet Day,’ a global partnership aimed at making the Internet a safe place for everyone and which this year takes place on Tuesday 7th February.

University of Gloucestershire Professor of Cyber Security, Cameron ‘Buck’ Rogers, explains:

“At a personal level cyber-blackmail can happen to anyone using online services, websites or apps.

“The act can include threats to share information, data, images or video about individuals publicly unless a specific demand is met.

“This often happens through private messaging services where images and videos are shared, but it can also include the hacking or theft of personal information.

“The Internet can be a powerful force for good, but online platforms can also be used as tools for bullying and abuse. The impact of this activity on young people who are often beginning their university studies, careers or living away from home for the first time, can be particularly damaging.

“It’s important to also remember that the Police will always protect your identity and support you with a wide range of resources through any type of blackmail threat.”

Drawing from the ‘University of Gloucestershire Guide to Online Safety,’ Buck goes on to highlight five top tips that are particularly important to be aware of:

  1. Don’t give in to demands, it’s likely to increase the chances of a blackmailer demanding more from you.
  2. Delete or block all contact with a blackmailer. If you know who they are block them on all social networking accounts and update your privacy settings.
  3. Gather and keep any evidence like messages or screen grabs to help prove what they’ve done.
  4. Change all of your passwords to strong letter and number combinations and put a sticker over your laptop’s webcam to ensure maximum privacy.
  5. Report any blackmail attempt to the Police and don’t try to take matters into your own hands. In the UK contact Victim Support here.
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