Cyber-Bullying and YikYak Solutions for Law Enforcement & Educators

On August 9, 2015 an episode of CBC’s Spark was replayed. It featured a focus on YikYak, the mobile app that allows individuals to post information anonymously about any topic. The posts on this application are tied to a specific geographic area so anyone within the area who has the app will be able to see the post, but not who posted it.

It was originally aimed at college and university students as a type of bulletin board. It quickly became popular with high school and elementary school students as a cyber-bullying tool. It has been a real problem for school resource officers, educators and parents.

In our training sessions for law enforcement, we are often asked for suggestions to reduce the harm this app can cause. In this post we discuss three ways to reduce the effectiveness of YikYak as a cyber-bullying tool:

1. Disable YikYak’s use within a school zone. This is done through sending a request to YikYak to have a specific area “geo-fenced”. The application won’t work in that zone.

2. Ensure that the school’s policies with respect to cyber-bullying are up to date and that they allow certain applications to be banned or disabled. The school should then disable access to YikYak on their Wifi network as was done at the Chilliwack Secondary School, which was featured in the Spark episode referenced above.

3. Parents can use various settings on their children’s iPhones to disallow them to download applications that are rated 17+. They can monitor their children’s internet activity through a program called Spectersoft and they can speak to their children about appropriate behaviour. These suggestions are all courtesy of Diana Garber of the Huffington Post.

At the time of writing we have not discovered an OSINT tool for unmasking YikYak users. We’d love to hear from readers on the topic. In serious cases of cyber-bullying law enforcement may wish to contact YikYak to investigate further. According to their website they:

  • Record a user’s IP address at the time of the app’s installation;
  • The IP address from which the message was posted;
  • The GPS coordinates of the location from which the message was posted;
  • The time and date when the message was posted;
  • The user-agent string associated with the device from which the message was posted; and
  • They will also require its users to provide a phone number when posting content to the app or if they suspect improper activity.

Instructions for law enforcement to contact YikYak for preservation and access requests may be found here.