Cybercrimes: rising and sophisticated

Information and communication technologies have become an integral part of our day-to-day life, impacting most aspects of our routine. It has transformed the way we communicate, make friends, share updates, play games, shop and so on. Cyber technology has also transformed the way we do financial transactions. More and more people are using online platforms for shopping, transferring money and to perform other financial transactions.

The new technologies have also created new opportunities for criminals. Traditional crimes like dacoity, robbery, burglary and ordinary thefts are giving way to cybercrimes. Cybercrimes are offences that may be committed against individuals, companies or institutions by using computers, the internet or mobile technology. Cybercriminals use platforms such as social networking sites, e-mail, chat rooms, pirated software websites, etc to attack victims.

Since the last two decades, from attacks on information about individuals and organisations, the nature and sophistication of cybercrimes have come a long way. At one end are crimes that involve attempts to disrupt the actual working of computer systems. These range from hacking, spam disruption of internet and cyber terrorism.

Midway along the spectrum lie transaction-based crimes such as fraud, trafficking in child pornography, digital piracy, money laundering, and counterfeiting. These are specific crimes with specific victims, but the criminal hides in the relative anonymity provided by the internet. Another part of such crimes involves individuals within corporations or bureaucracies deliberately altering data for profit or other objectives.

At the other end of the spectrum are crimes that involve fundamental breaches of personal or corporate privacy, such as assault on the integrity of information held in digital depositories and the use of illegally obtained digital information to blackmail a firm or individual. Also, at this end of the spectrum is the growing crime of identity theft.

From the point of view of investigation, cybercrimes can be classified as banking frauds, identity theft and invasion of privacy, internet fraud, ATM fraud, wire fraud, file sharing and piracy, counterfeiting and forgery, child pornography, hacking, computer viruses, denial of service (DoS) attacks, spam, steganography, and e-mail hacking and sabotage. The Information and Technology Act, 2000, and the IT(Amendment) Act, 2008, deal with various crimes and penal provisions. Section 66(A) to 66(F) deal with various types of offences and penal provisions.

The total number of cybercrimes registered and investigated in Karnataka in the last five years are as follows: 2014 – 1,094; 2015 – 1,448; 2016 – 1,225; 2017 – 3,187; 2018 – 5,789. This clearly reveals the five-fold increase in the number of cases reported during the last five years. The figures are likely to multiply in the coming years as more people will become computer-literate. Investigation and prosecution of cybercrimes is not easy compared to that of traditional crimes.

Cybercriminals are highly intelligent and use sophisticated gadgets that are difficult to trace; cybercrimes are non-local in character; action can occur in jurisdictions separated by vast distances. A person can commit a cybercrime sitting in any country; investigation agencies do not get adequate cooperation from social media networks and service providers; investigation officers, especially lower level policemen, are not adequately trained to handle computer hardware and software.

To effectively prevent and investigate cybercrimes, Karnataka Police has taken effective steps by creating five Cybercrime Police Stations and 37 Cyber, Economic and Narcotic (CEN) Police Stations across the state. Policemen deputed here have been trained to handle sophisticated computer systems and other digital gadgets. A well-equipped Cyber Forensic Laboratory is being created at the state Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL). District Cyber Forensic Aid units are being created to help district police units to investigate cybercrimes.

In September 2018, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology notified the cyber section of the FSL as ‘Electronic Evidence Examiner’ under Section 79(A) of the IT Act. This makes it one of the six forensic labs in the country to be so notified. This notification has given greater credence to the evidence provided by our cyber experts to the courts.

Civil society and citizens can play an important role in helping the police to prevent cybercrimes. Safeguarding an individual’s social networking accounts and financial accounts will prevent hackers and other criminals from committing cybercrimes. Organisations, especially financial institutions, can create their own cybersecurity cells and develop adequate foolproof firewalls to protect data from being compromised by criminals. Investigating agencies such as police organisations should develop professional competence and expertise in handling cybercrime cases. These measures will go a long way in minimising the occurrence of cybercrimes.

(The writer is Additional DGP, Crime and Technical Services, Bengaluru)

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Cybercrimes: rising and sophisticated

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