The internet has been a saviour to many in a post-pandemic world. Schools, universities, and workplaces have relied heavily on it to help people stay connected. Alas, increased time spent online means being at greater risk of falling victim to cybercrimes. Seeing this evolving threat in an increasingly digital world, Cyberwarders is a Sri Lankan startup that wants to help you stay safe. In partnership with the UNDP, it launched its first app on Safer Internet Day 2021 to empower victims of cybercrimes.
Cyber Care – The app to fight against Cybercrime
The Cyber Care app comes with several features designed to fight gender-based cybercrime. For starters, there’s a directory of emergency contacts. This extensive list includes but is not limited to contact details for:
- Police stations
- Agencies such as Women In Need (WIN) and the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA)
In addition to this, the app has a library of resources to educate its users about cybercrimes, its governing laws in Sri Lanka, and tips to stay safe online.
Among these resources are a series of games aimed at helping children understand cyberviolence. With their playful interface offering a comfortable environment, the games help educate children on actions to take if they ever fall victim to such situations.
Despite the several features on the app educating youth on the matter, the Cyberwarders team understands that complete protection requires active adult involvement. Hence, the app includes features to help parents track the whereabouts of their children and non-intrusively monitor their online activity.
The state of cybercrime in Sri Lanka
In 2019, SL CERT recorded 2566 incidents of cybercrime. This figure is the highest the agency has recorded since its inception in 2010. As the pandemic forces us indoors and move much of our lives online, this grim figure will likely rise.
Legal Officer at Women In Need (WIN), Niroshika Hettiarachchi, added, “We have seen a distinct rise in the number of cases. Between July and December 2019, WIN recorded 170 complaints of cyber violence. During the first month of the COVID-19 lockdown, the WIN Helpline received 584 calls. Of these, 341 were from victims of domestic violence and 39 were a result of cyber violence.”
It’s also important to note that cybercrime refers to a broad range of online criminal activities. A few examples are blackmail, stalking, hacking, sharing misinformation, and sharing pictures and videos without consent.
Citing research conducted by UNICEF and CENWOR, Gender Specialist at UNDP Sri Lanka, Bimali Ameresekere stated, “Adolescent unmarried girls and young women are the main victims of online violence in Sri Lanka. The most common medium used to perpetrate violence was largely through social media, peer to peer networks, mobile phones and other internet-based communication platforms.”
Past, Present, and Future of CyberWarders
It was securing funding and introducing their mobile application to the market. Speaking to Arteculate, Founder of CyberWarders, Sivalakshan Ganeshan shared these were the key challenges the startup initially faced. Thankfully, being accepted into the Spiralation programme helped the startup overcome these challenges.
An initiative by the ICTA, Spiralation, is a support programme to support Sri Lankan tech startups. Through this programme, startups can gain up to LKR 1.5 million in seed funding. Alongside this, Spiralation supports startups in several other ways to ensure they succeed. This support includes but isn’t limited to mentorship from industry leaders and local and global market access opportunities. Applications to join its latest cohort are now open.
Understanding that Sri Lanka is only one of the many nations facing cybercrimes, the team is looking to expand the reach of CyberCare outside the country soon. In doing so, they hope to spread the word on the dangers of cybercrime and help those affected on an international scale. Making the internet a safer place for all is the ultimate goal for CyberWarders.