India: Promoting internet safety amongst 'netizens'
The use of the internet has become an integral part of our daily lives. It has consolidated itself as a powerful platform that has revolutionised business, commerce and the way we keep in touch with friends.
The rapid growth of this information highway has also led to new forms of crime online - also termed as 'cybercrime'. Cybercrime has been used to describe a wide range of offences, including offences against computer data and systems (such as 'hacking'), computer - related forgery and fraud (such as 'phishing'), content offences (such as disseminating child pornography) and copyright offences (such as the dissemination of pirated content).
According to a report 1 published by the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT), which is the national agency responding to computer security incidents, the number of incidents reported in 2004 were 23. In 2007, the figure went up to 1,237 and in 2010 there was a significant rise to 10,315 incidents.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) undertakes efforts to contribute to a greater understanding of the threat of cybercrime and supports member states to act against it. In India, UNODC worked with the Ministry of Home Affairs, on action points to prevent cybercrime against children and increase internet safety for them. Mr. Rakshit Tandon, a cybercrime expert and advisor to the Cybercrime Complaint Cell, participated in this exercise and has shared his views in the following interview:
1. India has seen a steady increase in cybercrime, what would the reasons for that be?
According to a report 2 published by Norton last year, approximately 30 million people in India were victim to cybercrime and the country witnessed a record loss of 4 billion dollars. The primary reason for this is cyber illiteracy.
The Internet penetrated into our country very fast and we were not educated on how to use the internet. Our cyber education started from cyber cafes, where we only learnt how to use sites like Google, Orkut and Facebook. We were never taught important things like the protocols of the internet and digital safety.
For example, online banking sites often have a virtual keyboard which should be used to enter information, but very few people use it. The virtual keyboard protects the computer from Trojan viruses, that act like key loggers accessing information that is typed in. However, very few 'netizens' are aware of this and are therefore, making themselves vulnerable to identity theft online.
2. How vulnerable are children to cybercrime? Have social networking sites affected cybercrime amongst children?
Children are highly vulnerable to cybercrime and this is an issue of serious concern. I recently read a newspaper article 3 stating that in India, 32% of the parents say that their children have had a negative experience online. These experiences include cyber bullying, 'eve teasing', impersonation and child pornography.
Children as young as 11 years are now on Facebook, even though Facebook says that the social networking site is meant for 13 - year - olds and above. Children don't know how to properly use social media. They may - unknowingly - post compromising pictures of themselves, which then are morphed and used to cyber bully them.
3. What advice would you give parents and children to help them guard against cybercrime?
Both parents and children need to be educated on how to be cyber smart. The internet is not a scary place, but it is misused. 'Netizens' need to learn 'netiquettes', the lack of which is making them vulnerable online.
For example: A 14 - year - old girl came to me and said that her email account had been hacked. I recovered the account for her, but again the next day she came to me with the same problem. I once again recovered the account, but was curious to know why her account was being hacked so frequently. I looked at her sent items and was shocked to see that she was sharing semi-nude pictures of herself with an 18 - year - old boy. Her account was being hacked by one of her classmates to access these pictures.
These are very common occurrences amongst children and they need to be made aware of what is appropriate to share online. Schools need to conduct classes where children learn about using the internet wisely. Issues like cyber bullying and cyber stalking need to be addressed. We need helplines where children can call and immediately be advised on such matters.
4. How is the Government of India handling issues relating to cybercrime?
The Government has started educating the police on issues relating to cybercrime. Training modules focusing on mobile surveillance, tracing anonymous emails, phishing etc are being conducted. Cyber cells and cyber forensic labs are being established in every state. Special law enforcement training for child - related cybercrime is also underway. Apart from this, the Department of Telecommunication (DOT) and Information Technology (DIT) are aggressively promoting child - parent safety through their online portals.
Law enforcement agencies together with parents and children are trying to create a secure environment online, where cybercrime is minimized.