In Summary

  • Banning anything online is counterproductive since it creates an impulse to download whatever it is the government is claiming to ban.
  • Essentially, the virus targets Windows-based machines that have not been updated and encrypts the data on the hard disk.
  • Cryptocurrencies provide sufficient anonymity for a criminal to collect their money without trace.

Last week, two things happened that exposed the dark side of the internet in a way we have never experienced it before.

The first was ‘Blue Whale,’ an online game that has allegedly claimed the life of one Kenyan and many others across the globe.

The second was a ransomware attack dubbed ‘WannaCry’ that is still spreading globally across Windows-related servers and other computers that had not previously been patched up or protected.

Let’s start off with the Blue Whale online game. It’s an addictive game that offers teenagers a 50-day series of challenges with the ultimate and final one being to commit suicide.

Whereas teenage suicides are happening while the game is online, debate continues as to whether the game is actually the cause of the suicides. Either way, the orientation of the game is quite chilling.

The Kenyan government, through the ever-ready CEO of the Kenya Film Classification Board, Ezekiel Mutua, quickly moved to "ban" the game, and therein lies the problem.

It is one thing to declare an online application or game banned, but it is quite another to actually effect the ban.

Unless Kenya builds a huge digital perimeter firewall mapped along our geographic territory – the Chinese way – it is virtually impossible to ban anything online.

OVER-BURDENED TEENAGER

In fact, banning anything online is counterproductive since it creates an impulse to download whatever it is the government is claiming to ban. This is otherwise known as free publicity.

A better approach may have been to alert parents and teenagers of the existence of the game and provide advise on how to avoid or overcome the risky and suicidal motives within the game.

Many of the teen suicide cases reported seem to indicate pre-existing challenges that teenagers face, ranging from absentee or busy parents, peer pressure and lack of role models to identity or confidence crises.

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