Cyber Space

There is no miracle cure for Blue Whale Challenge

Recently, we came across a news item that two boys in Bangalore were detected to have been playing Blue Whale challenge game. Bangalore is reported to be the sixth city in the world to have searched most for Blue Whale on the Google.

Some people suggest that the increased media attention on Blue Whale is actually making more people take up the game. However, the above incident indicates that friends in a school observed and reported to their teachers about the two boys suspected to have been playing the game and the matter was then reported to the Police for further action.

This clearly indicates that “Awareness” has actually saved these two boys from proceeding further and vindicates the strategy of containing the damage.

Can Courts find a solution?
Following the many reported incidents, there has been a tendency to file PILs in courts and seeking a judicial remedy to the problem. Even the Central Government has swung into action issuing instructions to Google and Facebook to block access to Blue Whale Challenge game. A lot has been written about what parents, schools and Internet intermediaries need to do, etc.

We must understand that Blue Whale Challenge threat is not like a typical Cyber Security threat which can be addressed by traditional Information Security solutions such as “Firewalls” and “Anti Virus”.

This is a threat that arises out of “Internet/Mobile Addiction” in the first place and “Blind Faith in Virtual Content” in the second place.

Unless we address these two sub-threats, we will not be able to make progress in mitigating the risk of Blue Whale. There is no doubt that all stakeholders, namely, the Parents, School, the Intermediaries and the Government have a role in addressing this issue but it is necessary for all of us to appreciate the root causes before jumping into solutions.

De-addiction to Internet/Gaming/Mobile

The first task in mitigating the Blue Whale challenge is trying to address the “De-addiction” requirement of a subject from adverse effect of addiction to Internet or Gaming or Mobile. Gaming addiction is more dangerous than Internet addiction and Mobile Gaming addiction is even more dangerous.

Identification of “Addictive Behavioural Pattern” can be done by the parents since they have an opportunity to observe the child’s behaviour to some extent.

Blue Whale is a game which starts with a compromise of the device and the Curator takes full control of the mobile from the very beginning. Hence even if the child does not identify the spyware presence, the Curator would find out and may warn the child that the Parent is spying on them and also use it as a tool to prove that “Parents are not to be trusted”.

Schools may display a notice to this effect in their premises, confiscate and check the mobiles of students if need be.

However, it is for the parents to identify the “Addiction Behaviour”. There are three important parameters for this:

a) Immersive tendencies: forgetting the time when on mobile
b) Substitution tendencies: replacing physical activities with mobile activities
c) Irritable tendencies: getting angry when brought out of the mobile world

If it is confirmed that the child is addictive, expert help need to be sought for counselling for which the school is in a better position to administer.
At the Schools, apart from building awareness, there is a need to

a) Make an Internet Counsellor available for consultation;
b) Initiate a whistle blowing program so that friends can identify the Blue Whale hooked children and report it to the management.

Breaking the Blind Faith

The next mitigation effort is to break the blind faith that the addicted person exhibits on anything which is on the Internet.

We often train small children going to school that “they should not trust strangers”.  This has been mostly successful and children are conditioned to distrust strangers.

We need to condition our young brains that when we interact on the Internet with strangers, we do not even know if he is a man or a woman, boy or girl, a pedophile or a scamster and hence we need to distrust them.

Cyber Hypnotism
“Hypnotism” requires a “Communication” between the hypnotizer and the subject. In a physical world, we try to make the subject relax and listen intently to our suggestions until he falls into a trans, establishes a private communication network with the hypnotizer and starts taking suggestions directly into his sub-conscious mind. The hypnotizer is also able to leave “Post hypnotic suggestions” which could change the attitude and behaviour of subjects even after they come out of the trans.

Now look at the medium of Internet and the Facebook chat. The subject is all alone, staring at the computer screen, ready to listen (through earphones sometimes) intently and without disturbance to the voice coming from the other side or see the words and pictures appearing on the screen. For a seasoned hypnotizer, this is an ideal condition under which he can get the subject into a trans at a snap of his fingers. The role of “Horror movies” used by Blue Whale curators is a way of softening up the subject so that he starts losing his self-confidence and moves from a depressed state to depressed-cum-fearful state in which suggestions are accepted readily.

If there is any resistance, the hacker uses the information he got on the subject by planting a Trojan and through his research on Facebook status, etc., to make the subject believe: “I know everything about you and your dear ones around you… I can harm them if I want…just like what you have seen in horror movies…”

If the subject is already depressed, the curator may reinforce the depressed feeling: “You are right to be depressed…continue…be more depressed…until you feel that you do not deserve to live…”
There is one belief under which all hypnotists work that, under hypnosis you cannot override certain basic attitudinal beliefs since the natural resistance mechanism will come to defend the individual. For example, you cannot make an ordinary person to commit a murder when he is in a trans. The Blue Whale is challenging this basic principle since it is successful in driving the subject to even committing suicide.

We need to either give up this myth or find a new logic on the conditions under which a hypnotic subject may be made to work against his fundamental beliefs.

We may remember that the last act of “Suicide” for a subject who completely believes that his life is not worth living, is actually a feeling of “Success”. He is perhaps made to believe that though he has failed all through his life, he is recording at least one successful act in his entire life – that of jumping down the high building and taking away his own life.

Possibly, the conventional “Anti-hypnotic resistance” is overcome because of this “Feeling of Success”.

Under psychological analysis, it is difficult not to appreciate the ingenuity of the Game and it is no wonder therefore that it was created by a psychology student. Just as Technologists are enamored by the Bitcoin and Block Chain, psychologists and hypnotic practitioners may get enamored by the game as it teaches them how to mesmerize and hypnotize through the Cyber Medium without the need to dangle a pendulum before a subject relaxing in an easy chair in a room with a dull reading light.

We should not therefore fall into a false sense of security by the government asking for non-existent links to the games to be removed. If at all Google or Facebook have to be of help, they should be able to use “Artificial Intelligence” to pre-identify vulnerable victims and monitor their chats. If successful they may be able to identify “Suggested hyper links in chat conversations” and filter them against known dark web addresses, horror movies, etc.

It is for the parents and the schools foremost to take the remedial steps lest it should be too late.

Sanjay Gade

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