The new era of virtual crimes


India is the seventh most targeted country for Web Application Attacks which calls for the government to adopt stern measures to curb cyber-crimes.

Internet has now become the part and parcel of human life. It is the most important source of information and communication and is used for multifarious purposes such as entertainment, online shopping, job hunt, banking, commerce, online study and networking etc. According to the 2018 Global Digital suite of reports from We Are Social and Hootsuite, there are more than 4 billion internet users across the globe. Half of the world’s population is now online, and it has been reported that a quarter of a billion new users came online for the first time in 2017.

With the increase in the number of netizens, the internet has been misused by some criminal elements against persons, property, government and society. Indeed, the use of Internet has made our modern lifestyles easier, but when we see the other side of the coin, there are many limitations attached to it. The lure of the virtual word has also given rise to many new types of crimes. According to the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team, around 53,000 cyber security cases were observed in 2017.

“E-Crimes such as money frauds, hacking of bank accounts, online scams and social media threats like stalking, pornography, bullying, defamation and online harassment are tremendously increasing. The problem with online crime is that most of the complaints go unreported. In order to address this issue, the Government of India is setting up online channels for redressals.”

Rakshit Tandon, Director Executive Council- Council of Information Security

The internet has been misused for hacking, terrorism, copyright infringement, fraud, software piracy, illegal trafficking, pornography, bullying, stalking, salami attacks and web defacement. The widespread use of social media has also provided a clear platform to cyber criminals to take an undue advantage of those vulnerable. According to the National Investigation Agency, every sixth cybercrime in India is committed through social media.


Problem with our legal system

E-crime is a global problem which is of growing concern in India. It poses challenges to our existing legal system as it deals with: jurisdiction issues, difficulty in tracing the culprit, public unawareness and underreporting of cases. Although, the Information Technology Act 2000 modishly deals with cyber-crimes but it does not specifically cover all internet-based crimes. Online infringement of intellectual property rights, cyber-squatting, tax evasion, online sale of illegal articles and money laundering cases occur very frequently but these crimes are not explicitly covered under IT Act. Rakshit Tandon, Cyber Security Expert says, “There is a need to amend the IT Act so as to cover other internet- based crimes. New threats relating to bitcoins and cryptocurrency are required to be defined clearly.”

“Internet- based crimes are rising phenomenally as every 10 minutes there is a cyber-attack. One needs to have a good antivirus and a spyware, not share sensitive information with others especially on social media. Our law needs to be stricter and enforcement mechanisms more effective to tackle the problem. Training the law enforcement in cyber laws is an immediate concern too.”                            – Dr. Karnika Seth, Advocate & Founding Partner of Seth Associates & Lex Cyberia


Government measures

In order to combat E-crimes, the Government of India has planned to establish an apex cybercrime coordination centre in Delhi and has asked other states to establish a similar mechanism in every district. ₹83 crore has been released for the establishment of a cyber forensic  laboratory- cum- training centre for police officers in each state, under the Cyber Crime Prevention against Women and Children Scheme. It has been observed that women are the major victims of social media crimes. So to counter this problem, the Union Home Minister, Rajnath Singh had recently proposed to establish a cyber-crime reporting portal to tackle cyber-crimes against women. The government has also decided to train more than 37,000 police and law enforcement officers to identify and investigate a variety of cyber-attacks, encompassing the widely known “Nigerian Prince” scam to the more obscure “salami slicing” attacks.

As India is the seventh most targeted country for Web Application Attacks, the government should adopt stern measures to overcome the problem of cyber-crimes and put more efforts to create awareness amongst general public.