Safety tips in wake of school lur­ing case

Two Con­cor­dia stu­dents lured, drugged, sex­u­ally as­saulted af­ter In­sta­gram in­vite

Montreal Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - ANDY RIGA ariga@post­ twit­

Lock down your so­cial me­dia ac­counts and take pre­cau­tions be­fore ac­cept­ing on­line of­fers.

Those are among the tips a cy­ber­se­cu­rity ex­pert is of­fer­ing af­ter two Con­cor­dia Univer­sity stu­dents re­ported be­ing lured, drugged and sex­u­ally as­saulted af­ter be­ing sent an in­vi­ta­tion on In­sta­gram.

“Be vig­i­lant and be re­source­ful,” said Terry Cut­ler, who con­ducts sem­i­nars on in­ter­net se­cu­rity for fam­i­lies.

He said it’s not un­com­mon for preda­tors to tar­get young peo­ple via so­cial me­dia with prom­ises of a job or money.

In the Con­cor­dia case, the two fe­male stu­dents re­ported re­ceiv­ing “un­so­licited pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties,” the univer­sity said in a pub­lic-safety alert on Mon­day.

The first step to pro­tect­ing your­self is check­ing pri­vacy set­tings to en­sure you’re re­strict­ing who can see de­tails and photos on your so­cial-me­dia ac­counts, Cut­ler said.

That lim­its the amount of in­for­ma­tion that’s pub­licly avail­able — data that a preda­tor can use to craft a per­son­al­ized come-on.

A friend re­quest or an in­vi­ta­tion from a stranger should trig­ger sus­pi­cion.


“Def­i­nitely do some re­search in ad­vance be­fore meet­ing some­one,” Cut­ler said. “Google the per­son, Google their phone num­ber, ask around, ask friends if they’ve heard of this type of op­por­tu­nity.”

It’s a good idea to check the per­son’s pro­file photo us­ing Google, which al­lows users to up­load photos and search for sim­i­lar images, Cut­ler said. That may show that the pro­file photo has been taken from some­one else’s ac­count or is stock pho­tog­ra­phy.

If you de­cide to meet the per­son, “tell a friend: ‘Hey, this op­por­tu­nity came up. I’m sup­posed to meet them, so I’m just telling you’ — or maybe bring them with you so you’re not alone,” Cut­ler said. “And al­ways meet in a pub­lic place.”

Mon­treal po­lice con­firmed they are in­ves­ti­gat­ing the two Con­cor­dia cases, but would not pro­vide any ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion.

It’s un­clear if other Con­cor­dia stu­dents were tar­geted.

“I don’t know, but that’s def­i­nitely what trig­gered us to move as quickly as we did and to go as broad as we did,” Con­cor­dia spokesper­son Mary-Jo Barr said.

The first woman re­ported an as­sault dur­ing win­ter ear­lier this year, the sec­ond in Septem­ber. The univer­sity learned of the in­ci­dents last week and sent the safety warn­ing to 45,000 stu­dents Mon­day.

“From what I un­der­stand of (the two stu­dents’) sto­ries, there were cer­tain ele­ments that were sim­i­lar-sound­ing, so it’s got a lot of peo­ple think­ing that these may be con­nected,” said Barr, who has not seen the In­sta­gram mes­sages in ques­tion.

“Part of what’s so hor­ri­fy­ing about this case is that stu­dents have a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence on so­cial me­dia and they do know how to look out for creepy, du­bi­ous-look­ing scams, so I think it just speaks to how so­phis­ti­cated this ap­proach must have been,” Barr said.

She said Con­cor­dia is “en­cour­ag­ing stu­dents to pay more at­ten­tion than usual and to be re­ally care­ful as to what they say and do on­line.”

In the wake of the Con­cor­dia cases, McGill Univer­sity sent a state­ment to stu­dents and staff.

“We know of no threat to or in­ci­dent in­volv­ing any McGill stu­dents, but we wish our stu­dent pop­u­la­tion to be aware of these re­cent in­ci­dents and cau­tion you to be vig­i­lant when re­spond­ing to sim­i­lar of­fers orig­i­nat­ing on so­cial me­dia,” the state­ment reads, in part.

In the mes­sage, Ol­livier Dyens, McGill’s deputy provost (stu­dent life and learn­ing), says any­one who feels threat­ened should call 911 and alert cam­pus pub­lic-safety of­fi­cials.

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