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A cyber cell at a police station in Ghaziabad. Authorities had blocked 652 URLs until June 2017. Photo: HT
A cyber cell at a police station in Ghaziabad. Authorities had blocked 652 URLs until June 2017. Photo: HT

Rise in cyber crime jolts centre into action

The home ministry clarifies that the government has taken several legal, policy and institutional measures to check cyber crime

New Delhi: The Union home ministry has been jolted into action after the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) reported that 50 incidents of cyber crime, affecting 19 financial organizations, took place between November 2016 and June 2017.

CERT-In data showed that there were a total of 50,362 cyber crime incidents in 2016. This year, there have been 27,482 incidents until June. Authorities had blocked 652 URLs (uniform resource locators) until June 2017.

While CERT-In has issued 21 advisories for security safeguards covering the point of sale, micro ATMs, electronic wallets, online banking, smart phones, unified payment interface, SIM cards, wireless access routers and Aadhaar-enabled payment systems, the home ministry stated that it had roped in several organizations to make the country’s systems impenetrable.

“Cyber security mock drills involving 148 organizations from different sectors including finance sector have been conducted to enable assessment of cyber security preparedness of organizations," said a senior home ministry official.

The home ministry also clarified that the government had taken several legal, policy and institutional measures to check cyber crime.

“India is working for bilateral cooperation with around 15 countries for exchange of information on cyber crime. CERT-In also issues alerts against the latest cyber threats and countermeasures on a regular basis," the official added.

Experts stated that the sudden spike in cyber crimes had come about after demonetisation, simultaneously stressing the need for an appropriate cyber resilience policy.

“The post-demonetisation era saw the absence of any deterrent by way of legal provision. Today, the Indian information technology law goes soft on cyber crime, especially after the 2008 amendment because except cyber terrorism and child pornography, all other cyber crime offences are bailable. This means that a person is free to come out and delete evidence," said Pavan Duggal, cyber law expert at the Supreme Court.

The problem however, spills over from financial crimes to terrorism as well. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) stated that it has been investigating at least 20 Islamic State (IS)-related cases where the internet has been used to radicalize people.

“The handlers are not in India. They operate modules which are already in existence in India and assign the task of tracking vulnerable youths to some of their operatives," said a senior NIA official.

“These handlers of the IS operatives in India monitor the pages and the links that people share and like on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Based on that, they then contact the person over apps such as WhatsApp, Viber and Telegram and begin the process of radicalizing and inducting the person into IS," the official added.

With the Reserve Bank of India’s guidelines governing cyber security for banks, the home ministry has also embarked on various drives to tighten cyber security.

“A separate research and development fund for cyber security of Rs1,000 crore has been created to be spent over five years for upgrading technological capacity. A central sector project namely Cyber Crime Prevention for Women and Children (CCPWC) with a total estimated cost of Rs195.83 crore has also been approved to provide infrastructure and capacity building to address cyber crimes," minister of state for home affairs Hansraj Ahir informed the Lok Sabha earlier this month.

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