Bomb hoaxes are cybercrimes that need cross border police action. India needs to catch up | #cybercrime | #infosec

Yesterday, schools in Delhi received emails about bombs on their premises. Delhi Police contacted all schools who were told to check emails. Close to 200 schools in Delhi-NCR reportedly received such mail. Obviously, there was prompt dismissal of class, parents told to pick up their wards. Schoolbags in some cases had to be left behind for police audits.

Parents’ trauma | Schools telling parents there may be a bomb in school is heart-stopping news. Telling them not to panic is moot, till it’s known for sure the mail is a hoax. Within hours, news was indeed out that it was a ‘bomb hoax’. Still, parents across Delhi raced mid-morning to ferry kids back, as schools had dispersed.

Keeping your head | Not all panicked. Some assured parents no such mail/ call was received, school was safe but parents could take wards home if they so desired. Bomb hoaxes are not new – schools are routinely targeted by delinquents. But mass bomb hoaxes are a different beast and here to stay.

Third in 3 months, 3 cities | The Delhi hoax came within three weeks of a similar one in Kolkata early April, and a Chennai hoax early Feb. Around 200 govt and private schools in Kolkata were warned about bombs on premises via email. In Chennai, 13 schools received such mails. Investigations are underway but there are issues. It is near-impossible to trace such mails to their origin, given the cascade of VPNs that jump country to country the sender(s) used.

Transborder crime? | Investigations should not peter out over absence of cooperation mechanisms for cross-border probes and sharing of electronic evidence, a challenge in the best of times. India has MLATs with just about 42 countries, and not necessarily for cybercrime investigations. Tracing such offenders, in the shortest possible time is key. India is also not a signatory to the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime whereby countries can investigate jointly and share e-evidence. Mass bomb hoaxes in schools and hospitals are a new scourge, wherever the origin. GOI needs to step up on enabling transborder cybercrime investigations to nip this in the bud.


This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.


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