In 1989, when Tim Berners-Lee, a British computer scientist, invented the World Wide Web (www) little did the world could visualise that the Internet would dominate all spheres of human life in just three decades. Alarming rise in cybercrime is a reminder that the ever-expanding information highways of the Internet and the World Wide Web have brought both boon and bane for mankind. The cyber criminals abuse these revolutionary digital technologies to distort them as bane for mankind. The awareness against cybercrimes must keep at pace with the advancement of use of Internet-based applications. Spike in cyber crimes in Assam in recent years explain how the cyber criminals exploit the poor knowledge on cyber security of the users of internet to hack the systems of the victims to commit the crimes.
The National Crime Records Bureau Report titled 'Crime in India 2019', published in September 2020, states that Assam recorded 2,231 cyber crimes while cases pending for investigation from the previous year was 2,181. The police could file charge-sheet in only 349 cases against the combined total of 4412 cases. The NCRB data also show that the cybercrimes in India increased by over 63 per cent in 2019. Most common cybercrimes reported are identity theft, online banking frauds, virus attacks on computers and other digital devices, hacking social media accounts and online crime against women and children. The cyber criminals steal the personal information of the victims to gain access to bank accounts and transfer money to their bank accounts, create new utility accounts, skim credit card or debit card to duplicate such credits and withdraw money from automated teller machines or use these to do online transactions. They also use the stolen personal information and photographs of the victims to post abusive content on the social media to defame them. The methods they deploy to dupe people and commit financial crimes often baffle the cyber security experts, not talk about the police personnel who are not trained how to deal with cybercrimes. Phishing is one such act which is known quite well to the cyber crime fighters in police force or cyber security agencies. But the criminals are still using it in a widespread manner as a large section of internet users are still not aware of it. It is basically an act of sending a fraudulent email which appears to be a genuine email from a bank or credit card company.
The unsuspecting victims provide the sensitive information of their bank accounts while replying to these fraudulent emails allowing the cyber criminals to commit financial fraud on them. Authorities of financial institutions now keep reminding to be vigilant against such frauds and request the account holders, credit-debit card holders not to share any information such username, passwords, personal identification numbers even to their own officials to prevent the cyber criminals from gaining accessing to such sensitive information. Majority of the cybercrimes are committed due to the lack of awareness and negligence of the users of the Internet to adopt the cyber security measures. The awareness on cyber crimes and cyber security measures, therefore, are of paramount importance to preventing the cybercriminals to reduce the internet into a bane. Action against cybercrimes also play a critical role in preventing more users becoming targets of the cyber criminals who get away and are at large.
The Ministry of Home Affairs has written to all the States to examine and register cases on complaints received on the national cybercrime reporting portal. States like Assam which has recorded alarming rise in cybercrimes should give wide publicity among internet users to make use of this portal. Apart from the provision of reporting and tracking the investigation of cybercrimes by the victims, the national portal has uploaded a lot of resources on cyber safety tips, cyber awareness for parents how to protect their children from becoming victims of cybercriminals, awareness for teens and young adults to secure their online presence. The 'Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre' established by the Ministry of Home Affairs has also mooted the concept of 'Cyber Crime Volunteers Program' to bring together citizens with passion to serve the nation on a single platform and contribute in fight against cybercrime in the country. "Good Samaritans are welcome to register as Cyber Crime Volunteers in the role of 'Unlawful Content Flaggers' for facilitating law enforcement agencies in identifying, reporting and removal of illegal / unlawful online content," it says in its appeal to the citizens. The Assam government replicating a similar effort to build a State portal exclusively for cybercrime reporting and for awareness on cybercrimes as well as safety tips will go a long way in curbing the rise in such crimes across the State. The awareness drive against cybercrime cannot remain confined to specific days or month but has to be a round-the-year activity to achieve the desired results.