The COVID-19 one of the biggest pandemic which is faced by the whole world; U.S.A., China, India are majorly affected by this Corona Virus. The COVID-19 not just affected the states economically and health of the population but it also led to the increasing rate of crimes like cyber crime.
In Cyber Crime, there is an involvement of computers and networks for the commission of an offence. Like any other crime, cyber crime is also a punishable offence under the Information Technology Act, 2000. This act is applicable in whole India and its territorial jurisdiction is also applicable even outside of Indian Territory, irrespective of any person or nationality. In other words, “Any person who commits any offence with the involvement of any digital system i.e., computer, laptop or mobile, is liable for an offence within the ambits of IT Act, 2000”.
Cyber crime is a threat for any individual or any nation, also there is an intention or motive behind any act done by the accused. Primary motive of any offender is to cause harm to the victim, and it can be mentally or defaming the victim. Modes of cyber crime are telecommunication, internet, phones, and computer systems. Cyber offences include - Sextortion, Child Pornography, hacking, copyright infringement, massive surveillances.
How cybercrime increased COVID-19 lockdown?
In India, during March 2020 the government considered the risk of COVID-19 and initially announced the lockdown for the period of 21 days which extended time to time after considering the increasing number of COVID-19 case. All government and privates offices, schools, colleges are remained closed during the period of lockdown and employees of offices are working from home, teachers are taking classes through online mode, considering the situation we can say that every sector used internet for their professional commitments. Here, the employees are majorly concerned to keep their confidential records, data and other details of the company secure, because this information easily accessible few by clicks only. So, it is their duty to keep it safe. The company is on stake because this confidential and sensitive information are the easy target for cyber attacks.
Cyber criminals i.e., hackers are highly active and as a result we got increased number of cyber crime. Everybody whether it is an organization or a company or industry or any individual are targets of cyber criminal, not even a single person is safe from these criminal minded people. Not just hackers but the cyber bullying is also at its high peak. As per the recent study of cyber cell, it is noticed that due to the lockdown majority of people used internet for their work, finding new job opportunities or to earn money which never happened before this pandemic period and this need became a major reason behind the rise in cyber crime. Cyber cell of India also revealed that India witnessed cyber cases increased by two to three times at the initial stage of lockdown.
Banks, healthcare companies, E-commerce and Governmental Offices are at forefront this battle against cyber threat. The Computer Emergency Response Team of India (CERT-In) in its latest advisory highlighted that during lockdown cyber criminals sends emails just like any genuine foundation and claims to update people about the day to day reports regarding virus or to encourage them for donations, impersonating trustworthy organizations.
How COVID-19 lockdown became a threat for Nation?
The following circumstances proved that COVID-19 became a threat for the Nation:
Work from home- A threat for companies
The companies adopted the “work from home” technique due to the global tragedy, COVID-19. This method of working became a threat to cyber security at international level. Lockdown became a golden opportunity for hackers to hack the devices of any company or employee and stole the highly confidential data or information. Cybercriminals are so smart that they create malicious application or device but for cyber cell it is really difficult to find the culprits.
Communal disputes due to COVID-19
It is observed that, this pandemic became another issue for the communal dispute between the Hindu and Muslim communities of the country. And both the communities used social media to express their hatred for each other and to raise their voices for the protection of their respected communities or religion. A few political groups also tried to convert this heated online argument into a political agenda. According to an article issued by The Indian Express dated on 20th of May 2020, in Maharashtra a number of four hundred cyber cases were filed till the date and it is observed that the majority of cases gave a communal angle to this pandemic crisis and the speech were full of hatred. It is also observed that these issues were raised after the highly controversial meet of Tablighi Jamaat in the national capital, Delhi. The Police Official said, “This hatred was expressed in form of messages against both the communities”. Further, the police officials “adopted the no tolerance policy against such hate speeches, fake news and misrepresentation and Maharashtra cyber keeping a watch on such criminal activities”.
Invention of Malicious Application
Malware or criminal minded people used this pandemic became a golden opportunity and they invented a malicious app called “Corona Live 1.1” for tracking the infectious person near to a healthy person. This app was available on the Goggle Play store, this claimed to detect the nearer corona cases, and people believed that this app will be a blessing for them but it became cuss for those who used it. This app invaded the privacy of its users through having access to their videos, photos, locations and camera. The collected data or information used against the people in multiple ways like blackmailing or threatening the owners through their picture or videos especially engaged with some private or sexual activities, practicing defamation, or compromising with the bank accounts or demanding ransom. Presently, all such dangerous app has been removed from the play-stores this initiative has taken by the Android Play-store and it also created a list of rules for such application and categorized them as “Sensitive Events”.
Cyber Scams during lockdown
An observation report of Reuter, disclosed that ongoing crisis both private and state sectors are affected by the criminal activities of cybercrimes. Indian Home Ministry Officials quoted that, “fake offers that Reliance Industries telecom arm Jio and steaming service Netflix Inc were offering discounted services”
CYBER SCANDALS: The wallets and private data of the people are primary target of for any wrongdoer. In the current situation government is requesting and encouraging all citizens to take step forward and help the needy during this pandemic through donations but cyber criminals are taking the advantages of this sensitive situation and created fake websites to encourage the donation but they use that for their selfish needs.
STATUE OF UNITY FOR SALE: Another unbelievable controversy happened with the “Statue Of Unity”, a monument of Indian founding father Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel that the Indian Authorities filed a suit against an unidentified cybercriminal who attempted the selling of prestigious asset of Indian Government i.e., Statue of Unity.
Cyber crime against women
During COVID-19 lockdown, cybercrime or cyber abuse is increased day by day, especially “sextortion- extorting money or sexual favor from someone by threatening them to reveal their private or sexual activities” said by the Akancha Foundation. This foundation received a total number of 412 cases which are purely related with the cyber crimes against women between the months of March and April. This foundation also added that the average of cyber crimes before lockdown the ratio of complaints was less than 10 per day, while during lockdown the number of complaints increased by 20-25 per day. The experts also stated reason that, “the frustration and the anger of cybercriminals is coming out right now in the form of cybercrimes”.
According to the experts, the blackmailing or sextortion increased during lockdown because nowadays there are many pages active on social media which offers sexual pleasure (virtually) to the users and these users are relying on them for their sexual needs. Other reasons are people took their relationship on social platforms and experiencing their intimate moments online during lockdown and these activities increased the chances of online threats.
Cyber crime against Children
Currently, everyone is using internet for their work, studies and entertainment. Every sector whether it is working sector, educational sector or any other sector, is using internet for their work, studies and entertainment purposes. As per the reports of Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM), “India is on top with 11.7% of reports for depicting the videos or pictures or any material which clearly indicates the child sexual abuse online” in this year itself
The founder of Akancha Foundation, Ms. Akancha Srivastava stated that, her foundation received 38 serious cases regarding cybercrime and out of these 38 cases 27 cases were of teenagers/ adults between the ages of 14 to 18 year old while 11 cases were engaged with the children of age 11 to 14 year old. She also stated, “There is higher probability that the attackers are known to the victims and their families as the children of this age group are using application like Zoom App on daily basis”. She also strictly advised the parents to stay aware about the activities (especially social media) of their children who belong from this age group.
After considering the disaster occurred by the COVID-19, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs setup an authority under the reference of the Disaster Management Act of 2005. This authority named as “the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA)” headed by the Prime Minister and the National Executive Committee (NEC) was headed by the Home Secretary. As per the guidelines given by NDMA every state, district of the country declared a nationwide lockdown and suspended all services except medical services and necessary items like grains, rice, and pulses etc, social distancing technique also adopted by the nation and people also adopted the method of self quarantine in their homes. But as per the current situation of India, there is a need of enactment of few new laws like Singapore and United Kingdom introduced new acts regarding corona virus in their respective countries. Whereas in India, the one who disobey the rules suggest for the situation is liable under section 188 of Indian Penal code, which gives simple imprisonment of 1 or 6 months, or fine of 200rupees or 1000 rupees respectively. But there is no strict rule or law has been implemented by the government in the context of cybercrime during lockdown.
According to above information, it has been observed that, as per the need of current situation Indian Government is mainly focusing on the COVID-19 disease but at the same time the issues take place due to the lockdown is being neglected by the government.
Government of India has to initiate new strategy or should make law more rigid for cybercrime because like Corona Virus, cybercrime is also threatening the nation. Cybercrime also became a virtual virus and equally harmful for the nation whether it’s about economy or safety of any individual even the security of whole state is at risk.
As per the demand of situation, government may collaborate with companies and immediately implement some new laws or make old laws more rigid, similarly government can collaborate with trustworthy and reparative company (national or international) to make software, apps more secure. And through this way, we can also improve our economic conditions as well.
Women and children are being harassed online on daily bases and during lockdown the graph of harassment is increasing day by day, to get a rid of it government can also impose a limitation on daily use of internet, and through digital modes like television, advertisement government may spread awareness about such cases and the victims of such practices could be involve in this campaign as per their connivances and their comfort level.
By Suksham Kwatra