Specialists from across the fields must collaborate to tackle rising Cybercrimes
Cybercrimes are rampant and, on the rise, globally. The intelligent, technologically very advanced criminals are tougher to crack, needing a huge joint and collaborative effort with specialists drawn from many disciplines pooling their skills to be able to counter and catch them.
This was the consensus opinion that emerged on the way forward in tackling Cybercrime at a recent conference, ‘‘A Hermit out of its Shell: The Digitization, Privacy, Cybersecurity & Current Threats’. Participants at the conference included cyber security professionals, industry experts and government officials. They addressed various concerning issues relating to the cyber space at the conference held in Bangalore recently.
Experts said that it is time for government officials, cyber security professionals, industries and stakeholders to work together, as a team, to defend such bloodless, yet heinous crimes.
“We are living in an era of unprecedented digital transformation. Today, our lives are increasingly online – we connect, transact, learn, and grow in a digital world. This rapid digitization, while empowering us in myriad ways, has also escalated the risks related to cybersecurity and privacy,” said Rajasekharan K.R., President, Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA-an international professional association on Information technology governance) at the 26th Annual Karnataka Conference. The conference titled ‘A Hermit out of its Shell: The Digitization, Privacy, Cybersecurity & Current Threats’,” hosted by the ISACA Bangalore Chapter, which concluded on 29th July, 2023, looked at various challenges and complexities relating to cyber governance.
“This is more than a gathering of cybersecurity, privacy, and digital governance professionals – it is a vital discourse touching upon some of the most pressing issues of our times,” said Rajasekharan.
The conference discussed various issues -the digital personal data protection bill, cyber bullying, cyber warfare, artificial intelligence, financial scams, and the need to address these issues ahead of time.
“Cybercrimes are taking over all the traditional crimes. If we look at the numbers of just Karnataka in 2022, the total number of cases is more than 20,000 cases for registered cybercrimes. This is more than 20% of total crime in the state,” said MA Saleem, Director General of Police, Criminal Investigation Department, Special Units and Economic Offences Government of Karnataka.
He said that the large chunk of the police force, traditionally, has been involved in maintaining law and order; keeping the society, at large, in check. However, in the 1990s, when Karnataka was turning into an Information Technology (IT) hub, there was an emerging need to develop expertise in the police force to investigate cybercrime cases as they were difficult to handle.
Legal enforcement in cybercrimes
Karnataka took swift early steps to deal with cybercrime. In 2001, India’s first cyber police station was set up in Bangalore.
In 2010, the first cyber lab was established under Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in the city. “This has helped to train our police officers on new technological innovations, understanding various methodologies used by criminals, and helps in having a good expertise for both detection and investigation of cybercrimes,” said Saleem.
In 2019, the police department collaborated with Data Security Council of India (DSCI) and Centre for Cyber Crime Investigation Training and Research (CCITR) for further training and capacity building. Investigators and police officers were trained under this collaboration.
“It was also essential to train the prosecutors to present the cases before the court. Judiciary members were trained so that they know and appreciate the technical evidences that are put forth to them, and they can make decisions on these cases, based on these evidences,” said Saleem.
Karnataka’s government’s digitization started two decades ago. Though there have been early advancements in the state government’s digitization programmes, cybercrime threats have also increased at multi-fold levels.
“There is a need to bring ethical artificial intelligence (AI) systems to safeguard the data. The Government of India and the Government of Karnataka are working hand in hand to bring in frameworks. We have zero tolerance on cyber attacks,” said Mahadesha V, Programme Director and Chief Information Security Officer (ClSO), Centre for E-governance, Government of Karnataka, Bangalore.
The cyber security operations centre looks at the remedial actions that could safeguard our environment from data thefts.
The national cyber security reforms framework will have a checklist that will help them understand compliance and security controls better. This will become a template for most government departments. This will be out soon, said Mahadesha.
In addition to this, there is a regulatory compliance in the government department. “Any cyber security incident should be reported section 70B of IT act within six hours,” said Mahadesha.
Collaborative measures for solving cybercrimes
“These are the times we should not work in silos (working in isolated departments). To make the system robust and resilient, we need more human resources in the team,” said Mahadesha.
Digital forensics experts are the need of the hour for analysing the digital evidences that are collected. “For that to happen, we need innovations in digital forensic labs and cyber audits so that this can function in a sustained way,” said Mahadesha.
“We are at a nascent stage. The cases are high, but there are not many experts. The government needs support in handling technological tools; cyber forensics, audit, and most importantly in investigation of these cases. Sometimes we seize data cards, laptops, pen drives, but we need experts for conducting a detailed analysis of the content. Audits of such content are core of the investigation,” said Saleem.
India witnessed a 53 percent hike in ransomware incidents in 2022 (year on year), according to India’s national cyber agency CERT.
Average cost of a data breach in India touched INR 179 million in 2023, the latest IBM report says. It is an all-time high in the report, and a 28% increase since 2020.
The global cost of cybercrime is expected to surge in the next five years, rising from $8.44 trillion in 2022 to $23.84 trillion by 2027, reports from Statista suggest.
“If one criminal is prosecuted, it helps to prevent so many cases. Cases of cryptography fraud, bitcoin are high. These cases are tough to analyse. The key need is prosecution and investigation to make our systems, cities, companies and economy safer,” said Saleem.
(Sharada Balasubramanian is an international award-winning journalist with over 15 years of experience in the media industry. She writes on environment, development, agriculture, climate change, wildlife conservation, science and technology.)