Shj police cyber crime-1694845195272
Police warn residents against sharing one time passwords (OTPS) with unknown sources as part of its campaign to protect residents from cycbercrimes Image Credit: Supplied

Sharjah: Authorities in UAE have warned that cyber criminals are on the prowl for victims, especially children.

Sharjah Police have issued a stern warning to the public, emphasising the importance of never sharing One-Time Passwords (OTPs) with unknown sources. This caution comes as part of the force’s ongoing efforts to educate and protect residents and visitors from cybercrimes.

Nada Al Suwaidi, a cyber-security technician at Criminal and Investigation Department at Sharjah Police, highlighted that the social media app Snapchat is particularly susceptible to cyber blackmail incidents. Among the most commonly targeted apps are Snapchat and WhatsApp.

This important issue came to the forefront during the launch of the ‘Be Aware: Stop, Think, Protect’ campaign, an interactive initiative launched by the Sharjah Police aimed at enhancing awareness about cybercrime and cybersecurity. The program was officially inaugurated at City Centre Al Zahia in Sharjah by Brigadier General Abdullah Mubarak bin Amer, Deputy Commander-in-Chief of Sharjah Police, on Thursday.

Cybercriminals employ various tactics to deceive users into sharing private photos and videos, which are then used as leverage for blackmail.

Combatting cybercrimes

Sharjah Police have been actively combating cyber blackmail, successfully rescuing numerous victims and recovering their accounts within 24 hours or less.

To address the unique vulnerabilities faced by women, Sharjah Police have assigned specialised policewomen to confidentially handle cases related to leaked private photos and videos. This approach has proven effective in resolving many cases involving married couples, women, minors, and teenagers without the need for referral to the Public Prosecution.

Young victims

One case involved a 17-year-old minor who had sent indecent video clips to a 23-year-old man. Subsequently, the man threatened to expose the videos to her parents unless she paid him Dh15,000. The girl sought assistance from the police, leading to the man’s arrest and the seizure of his phone, which contained approximately 800 compromising pictures used for blackmail.

Sharjah Police have also shared insights into recent incidents where the public fell prey to cybercriminals. In one instance, a six-year-old boy was lured into sharing personal photographs with a stranger he met through the online gaming platform “Overwatch.” The perpetrator then attempted to extort the boy’s parents’ bank details, threatening to make the child’s private photos public.

Fortunately, the boy’s father reported the incident to the police in a timely manner.

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Online gaming

These incidents span a wide age range, with online gaming-related cases typically affecting children aged 6-9, while other forms of cybercrimes target individuals between 20 and 40 years old, and in some cases, even individuals over the age of 60.

The Sharjah Police’s campaign has made a significant impact, reaching approximately 1,180,000 individuals through social media and engaging around 4,000 visitors at the Al Zahia City Centre platform during its first edition in 2022. The campaign continues to raise awareness and provide resources to protect against cyber threats in the digital age.