The existence of a new real life game called “Blue whale” and the incidents of suicides related to it are all over the news. Quite scary to read. How few unknown people can take control of your life without ever meeting you, points towards the various dangers lurking out there in the digital world. We have to stay alert and keep ourselves protected from these dangers. And ensure that our kids are protected too. Modern age parents take pride in the facts that their kid of age 2 years very easily navigates through their phones, click photos on them, run apps like YouTube and make their parents proud. Have we ever wondered that the kids learn things very fast and it might be so that they manage to learn thing which even we adults find difficult. For example, installing an unwanted/forbidden app and using it without our knowledge. Its true that new generation kids shouldn’t be deprived of access to technology, but parents need to control and monitor properly.
Coming back to Blue Whale, it is said that it is not an app, but a social network group/page/whatever you may call it, which lures people in to taking up unearthly challenges and ending these challenges with the ultimate challenge to commit suicide. The facts are not yet clear but certain things are. It is not an app. Atleast not an app on Google Play Store or iphone App Store. These stores are monitored and controlled very closely and such a game would not have passed their scrutiny so easily. So even if it was an app, or ever is converted in to an installable app, it will be available via uncontrolled third party app stores or as a third party app which can be installed by clicking suspicious links. But the security features in Android and iOS doesn’t let you install such apps so easily, and even has security features which disable installation of third party apps. My advice, enable these security features first.
You can take certain measures to ensure that unwanted apps are not present on your phone.
Disabling installation of Apps from unknown source:
In android settings under security options, find the option “Unknown Source” and disable it. If this is enabled, you are giving access to installation of third party unverified application. If your kids click on unverified insecure links, these apps can be easily hidden behind the link and can get downloaded.
Uninstalling suspicious apps:
Now-a-days, all apps are required to ask for permission to certain device features which are security sensitive. Eg. access to your SMS application, phone book, camera etc. If you install an app which, when launched, requests permission to certain features which its doesn’t have any business asking for, do not give the access and uninstall it if it is not important. Ask the developer via the feedback regarding this access request if this app is very much required by you and give access only once you are sure what you are doing. For example, certain games ask access to phone book. This is required in case they have a feature where you can invite your friends on the phonebook to download the same app and play with you. But in case the app has no such feature, it has no business asking for phone book access. Its better to uninstall it rather than give them all information about your contacts.
Do not Root the phone:
In case you use lots of apps which are financially sensitive, like banking apps, on your mobile, do not root your phone. Even if you root the phone, ensure you give access only to legitimate verified apps, which really need the root access for their usage. The rooting of a phone is equivalent to giving administration access on your windows computer of super user access on Linux. A normal phone user doesn’t need root a phone as all his work can be done without root. Rooting is done only by super users who try to squeeze every bit out of their phones and a little bit more. They are the nerd and know what they are doing.
Update you phones regularly:
Keep on checking your phone for updates and update it as son as you get one. A good mobile manufacturer provides updates with latest security patches and features. These patches close any backdoors which might have been present in your phone which can give unauthorized access to a third party.
Coming to Blue Whale and securing your kids, there is nothing in this world which can protect them other than you. Keep an eye on their digital habits and their real life habits. You, as a parent, can easily detect any change in their habits and find the cause. No amount of other digital security can protect your kids as much as your sharp eyes on them.