How safe are we on the internet?
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How safe are we on the internet?

This Safer Internet Day, let us talk about Cybercrime, Cyberstalking and cyberbullying.

How safe are we on the internet?

Two years and counting, our world has come on the internet after the Pandemic. Workspaces, client interactions, household chores and leisure activities are predominantly run on the internet now. Working, chatting, ordering groceries, or consuming OTT content, how often do we wonder about our safety on the internet?

Shashank Shekhar, Future Crime Research Foundation (FCRF), a Delhi based think-tank that researches new-age crimes says that cybercrime in India has drastically shot up after the pandemic. From job scams to digital currency, every household is affected by it. At the moment, cybercrime is on priority for every state government including the Home Ministry.

According to the statistics of the National Crime Recording portal, 3,17,439 cybercrime events and 5,771 FIRs have been recorded in the country since its establishment up to February 28, 2021. The portal shows 21,562 cybercrime occurrences and 87 FIRs in Karnataka and 50,806 cybercrime incidents and 534 FIRs in Maharashtra.

Amit Dubey, a Noida-based Cybercrime investigator explains, there are two kinds of cybercrime. One that involves nations and international bodies may be involved, the other is day to day crime which may include financial and social media crime. "It may involve compromising social media accounts or manipulating commercial information. I received cases wherein people hear of cases started on their names without any knowledge of them." 

Amit says that to commit a cyber crime, two things are needed- a mobile and bank account. Unfortunately, every time a criminal is traced, it is to be found that a KYC is fake. "This is happening every day under the sun. For cybercriminals, it is a business. Last year itself, we got 16000 sim cards from one vendor that were active with proper KYC. These 16,000 people did not know that a sim card is issued in their name. This level of support system exists for these criminals."

He suggests that a simple change like a deliberate delay in transaction time digitally can stop many frauds that take place on the internet. 

Despite cases of cybercrime taking over news columns, we seldom take lessons and worry until it happens to us. This Safer Internet Day, let us take a look into some aspects of cybercrime and how to prevent them.

When does stalking on social media take the form of cybercrime?

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I don’t know if it happened with you but in my school and undergrad, cases of using others’ pictures as memes for poking fun was prominent. Sometimes, we ignored it, and sometimes even laughed it off. We thought of it perhaps as ‘Harmless Fun’. Yet, now I think this is how things can get uglier.

We may think about it or not, cyberbullying and cyberstalking is the reality of the day. Earlier this year, on January 1, several Muslim women, found themselves “on Auction” on an app called ‘Bulli Bai’. This too was not the first of its kind. The app was found to be a clone of Sulli Deals, a similar app that came to light a year ago. Several of these women were prominent journalists, activists and lawyers.

We all ‘stalk’ people on the internet. Sometimes, to know about a person’s interests, pictures or know about what they’re doing now. However, when it takes the form of misuse, then it contributes to crime. So where does it turn into crime?

Shashank emphasises that Something that starts as fun, such as an informal chat group can take a dark turn if used to malign someone’s reputation. He mentions that intent becomes very important here.

“Say a student creates a fake account and gathers personal information of others- where they live or where they eat. When this information starts being misused, then it takes the shape of cybercrime. “
Cybercrime can take the form of cyberbullying and cyberstalking on social media in the form of hate comments, trolls and misuse of personal information.

Amit highlights that criminals take advantage of our "fears, aspiration, and location exposed on social media profiles. Thus, it is imperative that social media activity is limited to friends. 

How active are the laws on cyber safety in India?

Amit says that cyber laws are very old in India, the IT act was last updated in 2008. "We are still following 2008 guidelines when the technology is too fast." Talking about laws, Shashank says that laws in India exist yet the punishment rate becomes low, and so does the conviction rate. It is difficult to prove cyber crime.

What measures can be taken to ensure security on the internet?

The current conditions make it very important for us to take charge of our data security, and safety on the internet. Amit says that public awareness regularly is important as the modus operandi used by fraudsters is currently changing. Besides, we need technical solutions implemented by telecom companies and the government.

Some of the measures that we can to be more safe on the internet, as suggested by Shashank and Amit are-

1 People must choose stronger passwords. They should keep changing their passwords. Common information like birthdates, names, and pet names that can be easily guessed should not be used as passwords.

2 Two Factor Authentication, or 2FA, is a must. If somebody at all figures out your password, there remains another layer of defense. 2FA is an extra layer of protection used to ensure the security of online accounts beyond just a username and password.

3 Young people must refrain from giving out personal information on the internet. It is important that we do not show any weakness on public accounts. In the case of blogs on the internet, we can ensure that what we upload is not a clear portrait but a side one or a blurred image. “Anything on the internet is very hard to delete”.

4 Anti-virus software should be installed on mobiles and systems. Easily downloaded Spywares can be sent via chat and email for which the anti-virus software will enter

5 You must keep a track of your entire digital movement. “One should be very conscious of what we are doing on the internet as everything is registered.”

Launched in 2019, The National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal is a centralized portal to offer people a palace for reporting all sorts of cybercrime occurrences online, with a special focus on cybercrimes against women and children.