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The Next Extortion Call Will Not Be From Kidnappers, But From Hackers

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Today when the world is moving forward towards digitisation, there are still many aspects about which we either don’t care or they are overlooked. Apart from physical safety, the second important thing is keeping safe in the virtual world.

Virtual safety is becoming a serious concern. We don’t give a single thought before saving personal or professional information which can be very important and crucial, which can lead to a potential loss to an individual or business.

In 2015, two Indian business tycoons paid more than $5 million each to keep such information as a secret and from going public. A group of hackers stole their data from company’s server which included data that could put them in serious trouble if exposed. Eventually, to save them, a huge ‘ransom’ was paid. Only after that did the businessmen realise that their company servers were compromised from a long time and there was no certainty that it would not happen again.

This was the first said case of ransom-hacking which also involved corporate leaders of India. However, there are thousands of such cases each year that are not even reported.

India stands in top 5 countries across the world when it comes to ransomware – malware attacks that force its victim to pay a ransom.

How are these ransom attacks occurring? How does the hacker get such crucial information? This is a major question any individual will have in mind. Manan Shah – Co-founder and CEO Avalance Global Solutions answers this with some real life examples and few techniques a hacker might use to blackmail you:

“These hackers from a remote location encrypts your phone or system data and then would demand for ‘ransom’ or ‘money’ to unlock the system which is been encrypted. In such case if you refuse they will threaten you to destroy all the information forever and decrypting the information is a very intricate process and may not work every time. So eventually you are force to pay for your own information.”

Dark web is a market for hackers and cyber criminals. There are many websites which sell the credit/debit card details, passwords and other online information at a very low cost of $2-$5. However, hackers can get much more out of such information and extract huge amount of money, adds Manan Shah.

A ransom hacking victim from a city in Gujarat says – “Ransom Hacking is like kidnapping one’s family member or loved one virtually.” He adds, “We own a business of export and import and sales enquiries from other countries are a day to day part of our business. Couple of weeks ago we received such enquiry with an excel sheet attached. We only realized after opening the file that our complete data is been suddenly encrypted. Every single piece of data related to our business was lost in a friction of few seconds. Then a message popped up on our screen which said that we would have to make a payment in Bit coins through the given ID. Spontaneously we disconnected our computers from the network and seek an expert help to recover the loss.”

Currently, there is a new trend the hackers are adapting. Now they are moving their focus from computers and servers to a commonly used daily devices like phones, cars, and also medical equipment.

Let’s take a hypothetical situation that could soon become a reality – hacking medical equipment. Just picture it, a machine is used to perform a remote surgery and everything is all set. The patient is on anaesthesia and a doctor from a remote location are set to perform the surgery. As the surgery is about to start the machine which is been used is encrypted, doctors lose control over the operating device and nothing works. On the other side the hackers who were well aware of the exact schedule and procedure which was to be performed, have hacked into the medical device. The patient is on the table, the surgery is crucial and until you pay the ransom the hackers will not unlock the machine. This is one of the scenarios we need to be well protected from in the virtual world.

How? What do we need to do? Manan Shah has some recommendations to conclude this —

  • Do not ignore the security pop-ups that warn you about the unsafe websites.
  • Pornographic websites have pop-ups and an accidental click can install a malware on your system.
  • Always make sure that there are Multiple backups of your data
  • Torrent sites are a usually an easy trap. Videos can be infected with the malware, so beware before you download.
  • In case of a ransom hack, disconnect the computer from the network so that the cyber criminals cannot have further access.
  • Consult a cyber security expert or an ethical hacker.
  • Check the email addresses and URLs before opening. Fake emailer’s and spear phishing (an email that appears to be from an individual or business that you know) can be detected through illegitimate or incorrect company names or URLs. For example, http:// instead of https://; instead of

It is important to be Internet literate in the digital world. Awareness is the best safety measure one can adopt. The cyber criminals are waiting for that one wrong move.

There are 5 myths which should not be believed.

1) Going incognito or using a private mode can protect you

2) The emails you send and receive are secure and private.

3) You have privacy rights against social media companies

4) Password protected public Wi-Fi are safe

5) Turning off the phone/putting it on flight mode keeps you from being tracked.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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