Dubai: A 25-year-old college student has been arrested for obtaining private images of children through the online video game Fortnite, a Dubai Police official said on Wednesday.
Brigadier Jamal Salem Al Jallaf, director of the Criminal Investigation Department of Dubai Police, said that a mother reported the incident to Dubai Police through the e-crime platform when her daughter told her about another player in the game asking her to send personal pictures of herself via an in-game chatroom.
“The 25-year-old year college student was luring the children by offering to increase the amount of credit in their virtual wallets within the game in order to obtain private pictures,” said Al Jallaf, who wouldn’t reveal the man’s nationality. “We arrested him and found about 200 images of ten children aged between nine and ten years.
His family were shocked when they found out, especially his father who couldn’t speak after being told about the hidden side of his son’s life.
Dubai Police said the suspect was planning to use the pictures to blackmail and later sexually abuse the children.
“His family were shocked when they found out, especially his father who couldn’t speak after being told about the hidden side of his son’s life,” added Al Jallaf.
The suspect’s family said that he was always in his room alone for long hours and that they thought he was studying.
He has now been referred to the courts by Dubai Public Prosecution and if found guilty he could face jail time of no less than five years and a fine of up to Dh1 million, according to the UAE’s cybercrime laws.
Al Jallaf said: “Children are the easiest prey for suspects who are developing their ways and taking advantage of technology through social media and online games. Children are still immature and curious to meet strangers, so parents should take greater care and be vigilant of what they are doing online.”
If a child has been assaulted, then they would avoid telling their parents for fear of punishment, Al Jallaf added.
“Dubai Police has joined an international team of police from 13 countries created and overlooked by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to fight online crimes on children,” said Al Jallaf. “We have the latest programmes and tools to track and monitor suspects and to share a data base of information between all police departments,” he added.
Parents are not having the knowledge and something needs to be done to alert them so that they realise what features are available within games, and are able to educate and advise their children based on those specific risks within each game.
Ali Al Amadi, chairman of the Emirates Information Security Awareness (EISA) Committee, and the chief executive officer of the Ebdaa cyber security firm, who sit on the committee under the UAE’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), said it was high time parents wised up to online dangers, especially in games like Fortnite.
“When we go to schools and speak to parents they don’t know about these games and they get shocked that their children can chat to strangers, they think it’s only on Twitter and Facebook that this happens,” Al Amadi told Gulf News.
“Parents are not having the knowledge and something needs to be done to alert them so that they realise what features are available within games, and are able to educate and advise their children based on those specific risks within each game.
“You can never stop children playing games, and when it comes to monitoring it is not advisable to do so without telling them as that builds mistrust and could lead to bigger secrets being held.
“However, there are parental controls on most devices, and you can stop children downloading certain games with passwords on app stores, so that children have to go to their parents first to get it unlocked.
“What is advisable is greater communication between parent and child, so that whenever they are installing games, parents can make sure it is appropriate for their age, and that if anyone requests information from their child the child always checks with a parent first to make sure it is OK.
“It’s important that parents sit with children while they play these games and even play alongside them in order for parents to learn more about the game, its features, and ultimately what a child could be being exposed to.”
What is Fortnite?
A shooter-survival online video game where hundreds of players battle against each other in groups, pairs or as individuals to see who is left standing. The area of combat becomes smaller each time someone is eliminated. In-game currency called ‘V-Bucks’ can be earned or purchased to help players level up or buy more virtual weapons and equipment. Released by Epic Games in 2017, Fortnite drew more than 125 million players in less than a year and earned its creators hundreds of dollars a month in in-game purchases, going on to become a cultural phenomenon.
Five tips to keep your child safe online:
1. Talk to your children, maintain a free and open relationship where they can come to you if there’s a problem
2. Use parental controls, all devices have these
3. Give them technology appropriate to their age and have an agreed screentime limit
4. Don’t punish them, they will make mistakes and if you overreact they won’t come to you again if there’s a problem
5. Monitor them but only up to a certain age, and tell them you are monitoring and why, but stop when they become teenagers otherwise they will find ways to hide things from you.