A sharp rise but rare success against cybercrime point to a losing battle
Despite an impressive infrastructure set up to deal with cybercrime, including a toll free helpline, there seems to be no brake on rising cases
States/Union Territories (UTs) have set up 169 cyber police stations across the country to combat ever rising cyber crimes in the country as per a recent report, Data on Police Organisatons for 2020 by the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D).
The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) provides overarching logistical support to enable them to function effectively. In the scheme of the Constitution of India, law and order is a state subject. So, the responsibility to maintain law and order including setting up of cyber police stations rests primarily with the states and UTs which set up need based cyber police stations.
There are five types of cybercrimes, such as phishing, cyber extortion, data breach, identity theft and harassment.
Cyber crimes have witnessed a steady spike since 2018. India reported 2,08,456 cybercrimes in 2018, 3,94,499 cases in 2019, 11,58,208 cases in 2020, 14,02,809 in 2021 and in the first two months of 2022 ending February 2,12,485 such cases, according to official data available. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), India recorded 136 cybercrimes everyday in 2020.
In 2020, most common cybercrimes reported to the U.S. Internet Crime Complaint Center was phishing and similar fraud with 241, 342 complaints. In addition, 43, 330 cases of online identity theft were reported to the ICCC that year.
According to the NCRB, State of Uttar Pradesh had the highest density of reported cybercrimes and Jamtara in the State of Jharkhand a top hotspot of cybercrimes, and known as the cybercrime capital of India.
The Union Government, on its part, has taken steps for strengthening infrastructure for combating cybercrimes that includes online financial frauds in the country. It has also been pro-active in taking measures for spreading awareness about cybercrimes. These include issuance of alerts, advisories, capacity building, training of law enforcement personnel, prosecutors, judicial officers, improving cyber forensic facilities etc. Besides, a Cyber Crime Coordination Centre has been set up to provide a framework and ecosystem for law enforcing agencies to deal with cybercrimes in a comprehensive and coordinated way.
MHA has launched the National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal (www.cybercrime.gov.in) to enable the public to report all types of cybercrimes with special focus on cybercrimes against women and children. Cybercrimes reported on this portal are routed automatically to the respective States/UTs law enforcement agencies for further handling of the case as authorized by law.
In addition, the Citizen Financial Cyber Frauds Reporting and Management System module has been launched for immediate reporting of financial frauds and to stop siphoning off funds by fraudsters. For this, a toll-free Helpline Number ‘1930’ has been operationalized to get assistance in lodging complaints/report about online frauds.
Despite such a wide scale infrastructure to fight cybercrimes having been built over the years in view of fast changing Internet based Information Technology and the servers of all Internet Service Providers (ISPs) being located abroad, tackling growing cybercrimes remains challenging. Cybercrimes are borderless and fighting it outright is challenging and most of the times insurmountable. Government of India’s efforts in pressurising ISPs to relocate their servers in India have come a cropper thus hampering solutions of many cybercrimes.
Greater transparency, more awareness about safeguards and letting people know about outcomes are some steps which are needed to deal with the rising cases.
(The writer is an independent commentator. Views are personal)
(This was first published in National Herald on Sunday)