The exponential increase in cyber crime in times of Covid-19 has been clearly documented. However, despite the rise in the volume of cyber criminal activities in India, the rate of official convictions made against perpetrators of online frauds remain abysmally low. In August 2017, a News18 report revealed that a minimal 1.78 percent of officially registered cyber crime cases with the Indian government led to the perpetrators being convicted. This rate itself is believed to have largely remained constant, even though the volume of cyber crime cases have shot upward. Prof Triveni Singh, superintendent of police at Azamgarh and head of cyber crime special task force, Uttar Pradesh, this very factor in an interview with News18.
According to Singh, while the cyber police has seen increased reports in recent times, there is still a long way to go. With the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic, India's cyber police have been riddled with fraud websites and scamsters running phishing sites in the name of Indian central government's PM Cares Fund, as well as UPI accounts that are fraudulently promoted. Alongside these scams, cyber criminals have increased the volume of scams linked to the moratorium on credit cards and loans advised by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
Despite the steady rise in online frauds, cyber cops in India have their job cut out to trace the perpetrators. The volume of cases are compounded by cyber criminals growing increasingly sophisticated. Singh tells News18 that the key complication lies in having enough trained IPS officers who can understand new technologies, and lack of proper, consumer-facing awareness campaigns.
If you have a case of a wallet being snatched with just Rs 100 in it, you will likely see far greater activity in police stations, than if you report a cyber theft worth crores
Singh, who claims to have made over 600 arrests and recovered over Rs 4,000 crore from online frauds, states that despite a steep rise in cyber crime, phishing attacks and online frauds, cyber police still get comparatively lower importance to other task forces. "If you have a case of a wallet being snatched with just Rs 100 in it, you will likely see far greater activity in police stations, than if you report a cyber theft worth crores," he says.
Singh further adds that the task force size in cyber police departments is yet another major roadblock. "While you have a significantly large task force in standard police forces, cyber crime departments often have five or six officials working through thousands of reported cases. As a result, the case resolution time also continues to increase," says Singh. Training the task force to deal with technologically advanced tasks is yet another major obstacle presently affecting the Indian cyber crime departments. While Singh established cyber police departments in Noida and Lucknow almost nine years ago, he states that the two departments still do not have enough abilities to offer direct legal recourse to complaints of online and cyber frauds.
As a solution, Singh appeals for increased support from state and central governments to raise greater awareness regarding cyber crime, and ways to deal with it. He also calls for regulation of online services such as website registrations and payment gateway integration, in a bid to ensure that a website domain is registered with legitimate documentation, which would later help the police in tracking down perpetrators of online crime activity.
At the end of the day, Singh’s warning about fewer cyber law enforcers in the country states that an early bout of prevention is better than scurrying for cures later. While his department has run campaigns to raise awareness about such attacks, cyber police around the country still appear to have relatively limited resources at hand, as a result of which cyber cells are facing considerable setbacks in terms of expanding operations in the scale that they should be. "There needs to be a greater push from official departments in order to scale up cyber crime tracking operations in India," said Singh.