Cyber Sleuths on the Prowl

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With the increase in internet and mobile-related crimes, a group called “Friends of Cyber Cell” is helping Gujarat’s CID track down these spooks

By Kaushik Joshi


The burgeoning market for inter-net-enabled smart phones and a plethora of mobile apps has led to new-age cyber crimes. And cyber criminals are changing their tactics almost every day in an attempt to avoid detection. Keeping track of them has, therefore, become an uphill task.

NOVEL IDEA

Alarmed by the rise of cyber crimes in the past five years in Gujarat, the cyber cell of the CID here has hit upon a novel idea. It has started a group called Friends of Cyber Cell, where cyber experts are invited from all over the state to join in and crack mind-boggling cyber crimes.

Some 92 individuals have volunteered to work for the cyber cell, 68 of them being from Ahmedabad. This includes students of Gujarat Forensic Science University who are doing their MTech in cyber security.

Says Jatan Raval, 22, an MTech student: “I knew quite a few things about cyber forensics, but it was after joining the cyber cell that I came to know the finer details of cyber crimes.” Another student, Zaran Shaikh, says: “It’s wonderful to be with the cyber cell while still a student. It takes me to the real world of cyber crime, where I can get down to the nitty-gritty of crimes to solve them.”

SPOOKY WORLD

With the wide penetration of the internet, spooks have now entered the cosy confines of homes and offices. The subculture behind hacking is known as computer underground. Cyber crimes are committed against individuals or a group of individuals, with the intention to harm the reputation of the victim, cause physical or mental harm or financial loss using modern telecommunication networks such as internet and mobile phones.

Shruti Mehta, deputy superintendent of police, CID, Cyber Cell, Gujarat, says: “Cyber criminals use psychological methods to convince the victims to disclose secrets such as passwords, credit card numbers, etc, by impersonating a bank or a customer. In many cases, the victims don’t have a prima facie evidence to lodge police complaints, but they can do so in any police station in the state. In complex cases, they seek our help and we try to unravel the puzzle.”
The cyber cell is also raising awareness about cyber crimes through radio, television and exhibitions. Cyber criminals create computer viruses, which are programs which, when opened, copy themselves into the hard drives of other computers without the user’s consent. The virus may steal disk space, access personal information, ruin data or send out information to other computer users. In some cases, these viruses can be removed, while in some cases, they can’t.

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Though falling within the ambit of cyber crime, these activities and the perpetrators are jurisdictionless and borderless, making it difficult to deal with them. Many cases go unreported. Yet, the cyber cell of Gujarat is trying its best to crack the cases. RM Vasaiya, a police sub-inspector with the cell, told India Legal that of the 315 cases registered with it in 2014, as many as 126 had been cracked.

SINISTER CRIMES

But there are many more crimes in this sinister world: cyber fraud (manipulating data), identity theft (pretending to be someone you are not), phishing (to gather private, personal information about individuals) and salami slicing (stealing tiny amounts of money from each transaction). There is also cyber bullying, in which social networks are used to post rumors or gossip about an individual, thereby defaming and humiliating him.

Cyber bullying is increasingly infecting teenagers, leading to suicides too. Using internet and cell phones, cyber bullies try to intimidate, control, manipulate, falsely discredit and humiliate the victim. The bully could be a person whom the victim knows or could be an online stranger.

It is feared that increasing use of mobile applications and smart phones with cameras and internet access lends itself to specific types of cyber bullying that is not found in other platforms. In many cases, cyber bullies resort to sexually harass their victims.

SEVERE HARASSMENT

Says Manjeeta Vanzara, assistant police commissioner, Ahmedabad: “Cyber bullying can prove more devastating than traditional bullying as the victim can’t escape it. A person can get scared, frustrated and depressed with increasing low self-esteem and sometimes, even suicidal tendencies.”

Vanzara feels that social media, the information explosion and erosion of societal values are upshots of these crimes. “We find that sexual harassment as a form of cyber bullying is common in the video game culture, where slurs are directed towards women and there is sex-role stereotyping.”

Where do we go from here? Taral Bhatt, a police sub-inspector with the cyber cell, paints a gloomy picture. He says: “Future wars need not be fought with AK-47s and the like. All over the world, railways, air-traffic, refineries, electricity grids and atomic power stations are computerized. So, an evil mind can impact sensors and cause large-scale destruction of life and property.”

A whole new gamut of threats has opened up. As new trends in cyber crime emerge, we need not just policing but comprehensive legislation to address such crimes.

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