Technology has taken our lives by storm. It has changed the way we communicate. It has changed our relationships, the way we work and the way we live. In this hi tech era where we are connected all the time, what must we beware of? How do we become victims of cyber crimes? What precautions can we take? Read on for all this and more.
Excerpts from a conversation with Mr N Vinayakumaran Nair Assistant Commandant, Hi Tech Inquiry Cell.
What kind of cyber crimes are most commonly reported at the Cyber Cell?
Earlier it used to be mostly mobile phone related offences. But now social media has taken centre stage.. Facebook for instance is a major platform for cyber crimes. Last year alone we received more than a hundred petitions relating to offences committed through online social networking. The other major cyber crimes are 1. Fake online job offers wherein the recipient is asked to pay service charges and registration charges in order to get a job 2. E-mail lotteries where again you are promised a large lottery amount and you remit processing charges 3. E-mails soliciting financial help from people posing to be stranded abroad commonly referred to as Nigerian scams 4. Phishing wherein e-mails on false bank letterheads solicit information 5. Website defacement 6. Financial frauds
Facebook is a rage these days. What kind of offences are most frequently committed on Facebook ?
Creation of fake ids is a major problem. Uploading and misuse other peoples photos, adding to your friends list people that you don’t know, chatting that moves on to sexual talk that leads to abuse are frequently encountered problems.
Does a lot of cyber crime happen on matrimonial sites?
Yes it does. Fake id creation is again the major issue. It is always advisable to physically verify details provided online before moving forward with marriage proposals.
What kind of cyber crimes escape being reported?
Most crimes today are reported. Earlier sexual harassment, posting of nude photos and such instances did not get reported. But now times have changed. Most often people it is people in the inner circle who misuse such pictures and sometimes at mobile phone or laptop servicing centers.
How accessible is the cyber cell? If I have a complaint what are the ways in which I can approach the cyber cell?
There is a cyber cell under the control of an SP in every district in Kerala. The Police Headquarters in Thiruvanthapuram has a .Hitech cell. The Kerala Police has its own website www.keralapolice.org. This contains information about all the departments under the Kerala Police. E-mails ids are provided to which people can send in their complaints. There is the option of sending an sms to the number 9497900000 which will be immediately forwarded to the officer concerned. In addition to all this a complaint can be registered at any Police Station.
Does the hi tech cell conduct awareness campaigns?
Yes we do conduct a lot of awareness campaigns. We organize such sessions at schools, colleges’ residential associations, offices, and for whoever makes a request free of cost.
What are the precautions one can take in order not to become a victim of cyber crimes?
Missed calls are very often the starting point for cyber stalking. Do not call back to a number that you do not know. Ignore bulk mails and scam mails. In social networking you do not see the person on the other side. Do not give out your personal details while you chat. These are some of the minimum precautions that you can take.
The social media is an open uncontrolled platform. Can the cyber cell play any role to bring in some order?
Yes, social media is an open platform. The administrators are most often outside the country. If any control has to be brought in The Central Government has to take the initiative. But what we must realize is that are there are inbuilt security options. The cyber cell is a member on Facebook. It is a good platform to share ideas. We must use these platforms positively.
You mentioned the Nigerian scam, and the fact that administrators of websites are often abroad. How are international crimes tracked? How the cyber cell work in tandem with the Interpol?
There are mutual legal assistance treaties. We look at the gravity of the case. For instance cases where national security is at risk, assistance is immediate. Crime branch deals with Interpol. There is an official channel for mutual assistance.
What is the range of punishments for cyber crimes?
The India Information Technology Act was passed in 2000. It was later amended in 2008. This Act contains details of various crimes and their punishment. For instance cyber terrorism calls for life imprisonment, pornography 5years imprisonment and fine upto 7 lacs. The creation of fake ids calls for 3years imprisonment and fine upto Rs 1 lac.
Are our cyber cells well equipped? Do we have the latest technology and well trained personnel? What is the current scenario?
All our personnel are well trained. We have the latest hardware and software tools. But we need to continuously update ourselves.
A lot of defamation happens online. When these are reported are the perpetrators brought to book?
Of course we are equipped to track the source of these crimes. Digital evidence can always be tracked.
What message would you like to give to internet users?
Proper precautionary measures can significantly reduce cyber crimes. In most cases we put ourselves in situations where we become easy victims. But in case you become a victim do not hesitate to get in touch with us.