CYBERCRIMES IN INDIA
With over 77 per cent cyber crimes targeted at corporates, Web 2.0 increases the quantum of exposure and damage done
The Economic Offences Wing (EOW), Crime Branch, Delhi Police, unearthed a major phishing scam involving fake emails and websites of UTI Bank. An analysis of the accounts of the four arrested Nigerian nationals indicated financial transactions of over Rs 1 crore in an eight-month period till December 2006. This indicates the estimated amounts involved. Investigations revealed that the scam is multi-layered with pan-India and international characteristics.
This is the direction in which cyber crimes are increasingly moving, a marked shift from the unorganized and casual cyber crimes of two years back, driven more by vindiction or some casual fun. As cyber crime graduates to the Web 2.0 level, it’s sophisticated and lethal.
As per the National Crime Records Bureau statistics, during the year 2005, 179 cases were registered under the IT Act as compared to 68 cases during the previous year, thereby reporting a significant increase of 163.2% in 2005 over 2004. During 2005, a total of 302 cases were registered under IPC sections as compared to 279 such cases during 2004, thereby reporting an increase of 8.2% in 2005 over 2004. NCRB is yet to release the statistics for 2006. In 2006, 206 complaints were received in comparison with only 58 in 2005, a 255% increase in the total number of complaints received in the Cyber Cell/EOW over the last year. In terms of cases registered and investigated in 2006 (upto 22.12.06), a total of 17 cases, where the computer was the victim, a tool or a repository of evidence, have been registered in the Cyber Cell/EOW as compared to 12 cases registered in 2005. And mind you, these are just the reported cases.
While the number of cyber crime instances has been constantly growing over the last few years, the past year and a half, in particular, has seen a rapid spurt in the pace of cyber crime activities. Cyber lawyers, Pavan Duggal, advocate with the Supreme Court of India and Karnika Seth, partner, Seth Associates, Advocates and Legal Consultants, testify to this, pointing out that they have seen a jump in the number of cyber crime cases that they’ve been handling in the last one year. One also should remember that the term ‘Cyber Crime’ should be applied to all offences committed with the use of ‘Electronic Documents’. Hence, cyber crimes must grow at the same rate as the use of the Internet, mobile phone, ATM, credit cards or perhaps even faster.
“With the little offences came the larger ones involving huge money, and one has seen this sudden jump from smaller crimes to financial crimes in the last one year”
According to Captain Raghu Raman, CEO, Mahindra Special Services Group (SSG), the contributing factors are high volume of data processing, rapid growth and major migration into the online space, especially of financial institutions and their customer transactions.
However, actual numbers continue to elude, considering the fact that a majority of the cases go unreported. Most victims, especially the corporates, continue to downplay on account of the fear of negative publicity thereby failing to give a correct picture of the cyber crime scene in the country. According to Cyber law expert Na Vijayashankar (popularly known as Naavi), it is difficult to measure the growth of Cyber Crimes by any statistics, the reason being that a majority of cyber crimes don’t get reported. “If we, therefore, focus on the number of cases registered or number of convictions achieved, we only get diverted from real facts,” he adds. Duggal points out to the results of a survey he conducted in early 2006 on the extent of under-reporting. For every 500 instances of cyber crimes that take place in India, only fifty are reported and out of that fifty, only one is registered as an FIR or criminal case. So, the ratio effectively is 1:500 and this, he points out, are conservative estimates. Giving an insight into the reasons for low reporting, Nandkumar Sarvade, director, Cyber Security and Compliance at Nasscom, points out that very often, people are not aware whether an incident is a cyber crime; there is also lack of awareness on where to lodge a complaint or whether the police will be able to understand. “Added to this is the fear of losing business and hence, many cases don’t come to light,” he adds.
CHANGING FACE OF CRIME
The last year has seen a quantum jump not only in the quantity and quality but also the very nature of cyber crime activities. According to Naavi, a perceptible trend being observed is that cyber crimes are moving from ‘Personal Victimization’ to ‘Economic Offences’. SD Mishra, ACP, IPR and Cyber Cell, Economic Offences Wing, Delhi Police concurs that the cases that are now coming up are more related to financial frauds. As opposed to obscenity, pornography, malicious emails that were more prevalent in the past, now credit card frauds, phishing attacks, online share trading, etc. are becoming more widespread. As Seth points out, initially, when the Internet boom began, certain crimes were noticeable and cyber stalking was one of the first ones. “However, with the little offences came the larger ones involving huge money and one has seen this sudden jump from smaller crimes to financial crimes in the last one year,” she adds.