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Technology and Trafficking: The tick-tocking time bomb

Technology and Trafficking: The tick-tocking time bomb

Technology and Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is a topic that needs to be addressed, especially by having conversations about it with loved ones. Unfortunately, many keep quiet or do not realize how close these criminals are to people — they can be your neighbors, friends or even people you work with. The recent arrest of Ghislaine Maxwell shows just how easily it is for predators to manipulate and prey upon people.

Min Kyriannis, cybersecurity expert:

Years ago, children were often taught never to talk to strangers; those days are long gone. We are now digitally connected to everyone and everything through social media, our phones, smart equipment in the home and even gaming. This is the norm. Even our kids are becoming connected as they are born into this world, and we take it for granted.

So, how do we teach our kids to be safe in this digital age? To show how close to home human trafficking impacts us, below is a personal experience that happened recently.

My daughter is of the age to understand this topic conceptually. Her friends can go on the computer and access information as well as join various gaming platforms. With the COVID-19 pandemic, we, as parents, are finding creative ways to entertain and educate our kids, even play dates that our kids have are almost all virtual.

My daughter wanted to play an online game with her friends. I relented to the platform, but in agreement with her that I was to have the ability to monitor her activity. It took me less than half a day to decide to have our information deleted and removed from the company’s database.

Games like Roblux, Minecraft and others do not have stringent parameters set to protect children from predators. When an account is created, the company does require a parent to sign off, but that is the extent of parental involvement. Once that is established, the company has been give the authority to act however it wants.

But, let us take a step back. Accounts are left open as a default. Parents must manually go and set security parameters so children cannot engage with anyone. But with those restrictions, it limits children’s ability to play and interact with their friends. Thus, parents have to loosen security options. In addition, these games also show openly if a player is under 13-years-old — major red flag!

Within a few hours, my child had a huge list of unknown people adding her as a ‘friend.’ I immediately disconnected the game and contacted the other parents to alert them that we will no longer be playing this game and it will be permanently removed from our devices.

Elisa Mula, founder, EMD Designs Inc.:

My friend, Min, here describes the situation between her and her daughter, and she happens to be one of the brighter cybersecurity professionals in the industry. She knows what to look for when it comes to risk and technology. I am not sure many parents understand the applications and games the way she or even their children can as many parents have not used much more than social media applications such as Facebook, Pinterest, etc.

In April 2020, Forbes reported that child exploitation complaints rose 106 percent and hit two million in just one month. According to the article, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) said the increase was recorded through a reporting system largely used by law enforcement, tech companies and social media platforms. NCMEC said they are unsure if there is a direct connection to COVID-19 and the recent stay-at-home orders enforced by the government; however, they argue the idea that more people are home to report illegal imagery.

On the other hand, NCMEC has also stated that predators had used the stay-at-home orders to increase their supply. Investigators combing the Dark Web have reported in posts on various forums where such predators talk about ‘seizing the opportunity of this confinement and the increased exposure of children online as a possibility to access them and increase production of material.’

If that does not scare the hell out of every parent, I do not know what would! These are not the average, everyday criminals. These are sophisticated, surgical attacks from behind a veil that many parents do not even know exist. These are individuals that spend their lives at a keyboard, and the recent chaos our world is experiencing has enhanced their game.

Glenn Beck [CEO of The Blaze] spoke publicly about his own incident where he and his wife accidentally discovered a predator grooming their son. The story ended with the FBI tracking this individual down and a difficult lesson learned for the whole family, but it could have been a lot worse. The question is: ‘how many families experience the worst version of a similar story?’

If you are on social media, there is no doubt you have seen people arguing about censorship, it just happens to be one of the hottest topics rolled into the COVID/Black Lives Matter (BLM) umbrella. But, perhaps you have not seen the meme that states, ‘if tech companies can censor __________ why can’t they remove child porn from the Internet?’

No matter where you sit on the topic of censorship, ‘are we all doing enough to combat this issue? Are the tech companies, gaming industry and social media platforms complicit? Where are our legislators on this issue? I know all eyes are on the virus and riots right now, but who is watching the ‘hen house?’ If the criminals are looking at this currently as an opportunity, who is on the defense?’

As security professionals, we can petition legislators and educate parents and children. As parents, it is our responsibility to make ourselves aware.


As a professional who deals in cybersecurity, technology and risk, you can imagine the shock as I was reading through the gaming company’s policies on how they ‘protect’ children! 

When I contacted the company’s privacy team, I was advised: ‘You can discontinue using the account and leave it inactive. If you decide to come back, she can play.’

My response: ‘As a cybersecurity professional, you have not truly given me viable details on how you will protect my child. I clearly see major flaws with your platform, which I am sure your company will not address in a timely manner. Please delete and remove all our pertinent information from your database.’

Given the circumstances above, we know this is not a typical response, since most parents are not technically savvy. Technology has taken over our world, and there are predators in all shapes and forms. Technology has just made it easier for these types of predators to dwell and prey upon young children. These [various digital] platforms are multibillion-dollar industries, and a way many predators go on to lure naïve, young children into their traps. My personal experience that I shared is a clear example of a company that is interested in making money doing the minimum to comply with ‘regulations’ on minors utilizing their platform.

As an awareness for all parents … this is not to scare you, but is a wakeup call that even at home, we are not safe. Not only do we have to teach our kids not to speak to strangers [digitally and in-person], but also teach them the dangers of technology that is provided to them.

Technology has essentially opened doors to criminals and traffickers with them setting foot into our homes. Think about how connected we are. We need to consider that we have now given these same types of connections to young, innocent minds who are still curious of the world. Instead of them becoming statistics to trafficking, let’s start changing their mindset and teaching them how to become aware in such a technological world.


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