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India stares at a steep cyber crime challenge. Is it prepared? | #cybercrime | #infosec

In the last decade, India has made transformational changes in the adoption of digital technology. It has helped the nation become the fastest-growing digital economy. As it continues to expand, it has become a way of life for citizens. Online platforms, smartphones, telecommunication networks and Digital Public Infrastructure are a few examples of it. This has produced some unseen and unheard challenges not only for policymakers but also for the security apparatus.

Deep fake videos can wreak havoc, especially during elections and otherwise. Cybercriminals can impersonate people and undertake identity theft.

Deep fakes around sensitive topics cause instant damage and confusion, the Amit Shah deep fake video being a case in point. In a widely circulated morphed video, Shah is shown addressing a rally in Telangana and someone used the technology to misrepresent and state the opposite of what he said regarding reservation.

Privacy violation and financial scams

This is not an isolated incident. The infamous Cambridge Analytica data scandal involved harvested social media data of 87 million people for advertising during elections. It was alleged that it used data improperly obtained online from a prominent global social media platform to build voter profiles during US elections as well.

Another example of cybersecurity that has posed a serious challenge for financial institutions and has had a significant impact on the general citizenry is financial cyber fraud. According to the details shared by the Citizen Financial Cyber Fraud Reporting Management System, financial frauds amounting to Rs 7,488.64 crore were reported in the country during 2023.

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For a ‘cyber safe’ India

As cybersecurity spans various domains, India has established a multifaceted institutional framework involving multiple ministries, departments, and agencies to address this issue. The Ministry for Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) oversees policies concerning IT, electronics, and the Internet, including cyber laws. The Ministry of Home Affairs is responsible for internal security, including cybersecurity. It has established the Cyber and Information Security Division, which comprises a cybercrime wing, cybersecurity wing, and monitoring unit. In 2020, it formally launched the Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, building a cyber safe India has become a top priority of the Ministry of Home Affairs.

In the same series of measures, the Home Ministry enacted three new criminal laws, namely, the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita, 2023, the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita, 2023, and the Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam, 2023, which repealed the British-era Indian Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure, and the Indian Evidence Act, respectively. These laws are part of a larger plan to update India’s legal system in response to the changing digital world and the rising threat of cybercrime.

Role of new criminal codes

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Lauding the efforts of the Union Home Minister, Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud said, “I think that the enactment of three new criminal laws by the Parliament is a clear indicator that India is changing. India is on the move, and we do need new legal instruments to deal with the current challenges that we envisage for the future of our society…”

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The three laws enable the registration of electronic First Information Reports (FIRs) and establish electronic evidence as a primary form of proof. Under the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita (BNSSS), 2023, data collection is permitted for criminal identification. Additionally, it stipulates that all trials, inquiries, and proceedings may be conducted in electronic mode. The production of electronic communication devices, likely to contain digital evidence, will be allowed for investigation, inquiry, or trial.

The Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam (BSS), 2023, appears to adapt to the digital age. It classifies electronic records as documents. Under the Indian Evidence Act, electronic records are classified as secondary evidence. However, under the new law, electronic records are categorised as primary evidence. It expands such records to include information stored in semiconductor memory or any communication devices (such as smartphones, and laptops).

The new laws facilitate the enhanced use of technology for efficient evidence collection and presentation. It is evident that these amendments to India’s legal framework will ease both investigation and the judicial process, particularly for cases related to cybersecurity. These crimes are committed using digital technology in digital spaces, which typically leaves behind evidence in electronic forms.

However, this will pose challenges relating to installing reliable safeguards to prevent the tampering and contamination of such records during the investigation process. The government must further its efforts to ensure that the large amount of data collected in this process is protected and that individuals’ right to privacy is upheld.

The writer is CEO, Indiatech.org

© The Indian Express Pvt Ltd

First uploaded on: 25-05-2024 at 17:40 IST

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