Eerily similar to the movie Nerve, a sick ‘suicide challenge’, known as Blue Whale, is goading teens in some countries into committing suicide. The terrifying online craze is said to have claimed more than 130 lives in Russia, where it is suspected to have originated. The game has now found followers in UK, apart from Portugal, Brazil and Dubai. Schools abroad are sending advisories to parents to put a strict watch on what their children are downloading.
WHAT IT DOES
The app brainwashes children by throwing them 50 challenges over a period of 50 days, which include self-mutilation, waking up at unearthly hours and watching scary videos and listening to haunting music sent by the curator. The last of the challenges is to kill yourself.
The catch of the game is that once you download it, you won’t be able to uninstall it as the app also hacks your phone. And, there is no backing out. Apparently, once you agree to be a part of the game, you are not allowed to back out. If you do, the creators threaten to get you or your parents killed, as they have all the information.
Also, the highly-illegal game is not available for download and is available only to a closed community, so instead of the teenagers seeking the game, the creators seek out their victims.
CHILDREN ARE EASILY INFLUENCED
We asked Dr Shreedevi, psycho-social health consultant, on what makes the teens take up the game, when they know the end of it is death. She said, “Children are influenced by the game process over a period of 50 days, lose the power of rationality and are swept away by the instructions given. Also, there is the thrill factor, just like in video games, where you want to kill as many people to reach the winning level.”
The fact that teens are invited to join this game, rather than going to your app store to download it, gives it a novelty factor.
Dr Shreedevi added that transparency in a parent-child relationship can be of utmost importance here. “Kids sometimes do not understand the severity of the game and think they can get out of it and emerge a hero. Then again, most of the kids hide their online activities from their parents, and at the last moment, cannot go to their parents for help. It is also said that creators of the game also chose their victims, maybe through their social media posts, which show the child’s vulnerability. So parents should keep a track of their child’s online movement, and as of now, talk to them about this game.”
THANKFULLY, NOT IN INDIA
However, there is reason to rejoice. The game has not yet found a foothold in India.
Security researcher Kirit Gupta said, “I work closely with law enforcement, and if Blue Whale had come to India, we would have definitely been called to investigate. But it is possible for the game to hack the phone. There was this fairly simple game where you had to throw pins to burst the balloons, which saw a million downloads worldwide. But the game was purely made to steal WhatsApp information from users. An anti-virus too wouldn’t be able to help if the concept of the game is malicious and not the code. What Blue Whale is doing is targeted social engineering, where they send links to their targets. The links might be simple ones at first to see if you download, and then they send the game’s link and hack your details.”
Kirit added, “Here’s where the difference between iOS and Android comes in. Apple’s App Store only has apps approved by Apple, whereas Google’s PlayStore is filled with malicious apps. Google should enforce certification or quality check on apps to prevent proliferation of such dangerous games.”
What the game is all about:
- The terrifying Blue Whale challenge has claimed more than 130 lives in Russia, where it all started
- The app throws 50 challenges to users, which include self-mutilation, watching scary videos. The last of the challenges is to kill yourself
- The game is not freely available for download. The creators seek out their next victims and send them an invitation to join
- Once downloaded, the app hacks users’ phones and obtains all personal information, threatening to get them or their parents killed if the users later want to back out
- It now has followers in UK, Portugal, Brazil and Dubai
Source: Times of India