Sure, your computer has made life a lot easier than it ever was, but it has also brought with it cyber criminals who are keeping the Mumbai police up every night.
For the first time, the number of registered cyber crime cases in the city, has surpassed the number of real-world crimes like murder, rape and house break-in, police statistics reveal.
Internet crime spans a range of offences including phishing (tricking people into divulging usernames, passwords), hacking, e-banking fraud, identity theft, defacing profiles, targeting strategic websites, propagating underground ideology, credit card fraud, obscene emails and pornography.
Till October this year, over 1,062 complaints of cyber crimes reached the Mumbai police’s Cyber Crime Investigation Cell (CCIC), and the four-month old Cyber Police Station at the Bandra-Kurla Complex.
That figure tops all the categories of crime committed across the city in that period, including murder, rape and other body crimes. Cyber crime cases grew from 142 in 2005, to 159 in 2006, 344 in 2007, and 775 in 2008.
While the number of murders committed across Mumbai in that period stood at 164, the number of rapes was 136. House break-ins, at 804 cases, were the most common among the physical crimes recorded, while extortion complaints amounted to 148 (see box).
“Cyber crime will become a central policing activity in the next few years,” says Additional Commissioner of Police (crime) Deven Bharati, who is also the supervising officer at CCIC, the nodal agency for cyber crime investigation in the state.
Bharati says credit card fraud, e-banking fraud and profile defacing form the majority of the cyber crime complaints in Mumbai. “The number of Internet users is growing, so cyber crime is bound to rise,” says Internet guru Vijay Mukhi, who consultants for corporates and IT firms. He believes Mumbai’s current Internet user population of “about four million” will see a quantum jump in the near future.
Bharati attributes the rise in cyber crime to the criminal’s belief that it is easy to commit from the safety of the home or office. Mukhi disagrees, saying the law is soft on cyber crime. “Tell me about a single individual arrested for cyber crime getting convicted,” he asks. “For a physical crime, the odds of a jail sentence are good. But a person committing cyber crime can be assured of getting bail in a week or so,” he quips.
The police have now tied up for education programmes with Google and
NASSCOM, a private umbrella body of technology companies in India.
Mukhi says people also need to get more tech-savvy, and take active steps to prevent an attack, instead of simply becoming victims in this new frontier of crime.