The digital world is sometimes a dangerous world to exist in. This is because there is no one present in front of us but a screen – be it a desktop/laptop screen or a mobile phone screen. In the real world there is a physical presence of a person or a situation before us which is not the case in the virtual world. Hence the need for precaution and safety measures becomes all the more important and imperative.
That is why it is recommended that a person should be “street smart” when he is operating in the virtual world. This means that just like in the real world if we meet a stranger in the street do we accept an invitation to become friends immediately? No! Do we start exchanging address, phone numbers and other information without verification? No? Do we start giving our photographs and other personal articles to that person without justification? No! Then how come we start doing all these things in the virtual space without even thinking twice? We receive a friend request from an unknown source. The only thing in front of us is a photograph and an identity and a common person has no means of confirming this identity. Still we accept this friend request and that unknown person has access to all our private data, programs, photographs and a host of other information. This is what is called NOT being street smart and not thinking using our common sense. Thus we expose ourselves to all sorts of dangers in the virtual existence.
The case of the unfortunate teenager from Mumbai – Adnan Patrawala is enough to highlight the dangers and risks involved in reckless behavior in the virtual world and the lack of being street smart.
Adnan was a 16 year old teenage student of Class XI in Mumbai. His father was a wealthy and reputed builder of the city. One day on his social networking profile on Orkut he received a friend request from a profile called “Angel”. He not being street smart accepted the friend request. Little did he know that this one mistake will one day cost him his life. After months of chatting he became very friendly and very “acquainted” with Angel, or so he thought. He started sharing his secrets and details with Angel. Little did he suspect that what he thought was friendship was something sinister and it was sucking him into its vortex and it was leading him to his destruction.
On 18th August 2007 while he was chatting he informed Angel that he was alone this evening as his parents had gone out. Immediately he was invited to visit a Mall in Malad and meet up with Angel. He proceeded to do the needless and taking his father’s Skoda car he went to Malad for the fateful meeting. He never returned from this meeting. His father reported to the Mumbai Police to help trace his missing son.
Next day the father of Adnan received a ransom call demanding Rs 2 Crore in exchange for the release of his son. Soon the story broke and that panicked the kidnappers and the strangulated and threw Adnan’s body in bushes in Malad. This unfortunate incident triggered outrage and fear all across the city and it became a challenge for the police to trace the kidnappers and killers of this wealthy but unwise boy.
While analyzing his digital equipment the police came across the invite on Orkut from Angel to meet up at Orbit mall. They dug into the antecedents of Angel and were horrified to find that this had been created by 5 friends of Adnan who had befriended him at a gaming parlor in North West Mumbai sometime back. As they knew that he was the son of a wealthy man and they had some loans to payoff in an emergency – they hatched this elaborate plot to earn money from kidnapping him. Unfortunately they were not professional criminals but novices in this field and when media attention soared and police activity quickened – they lost their nerve and did the ultimate heinous act and put Adnan to death. Thus we can safely conclude from this case that if one has to safely exist in the virtual space one has to be street smart and never fall for frivolous invitations for friendship sent from unknown and unverifiable sources! This is the first step to sensible security in the virtual world. [Views expressed in the column are of the author himself]
(Varun Kapoor is ADG Narcotics & PRTS Indore, MP)