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Maharashtra best placed among all states to handle cybercrime challenges, says state’s cyber SP

He says the number of cybercrime cases has increased significantly

mumbai Updated: Nov 16, 2017 23:54 IST
Debasish Panigrahi
Debasish Panigrahi
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,Maharashtra,Cybercrime
Balsingh Raput, superintendent of police, cyber, in Maharashtra(HT)

Balsingh Raput, superintendent of police, cyber, talks to HT about growth in cybercrime cases and where the state stands in handling them. Excerpts:

There has been a significant growth in cyber offences across the state over the years.

Yes, the number of cybercrime cases has increased significantly; one case is being reported every hour. And still a large number of cases may be going unreported.

Why are people unwilling to report such cybercrimes?

There are many reasons. Firstly, in cases where the monetary loss is small, people prefer to stay quiet and not approach the police. Then, banks, proprietorship firms, insurance/finance companies and well-known people are all averse to report instances of breach in their servers, data theft and small frauds as they fear it will mar their reputation. Thirdly, there are internet users who are not digitally literate and are simply unaware that a crime has been committed. Remember, such crimes don’t always involve financial losses; it could also be data theft by hacking. Finally, the last reason is just people who are simply averse to approaching the police.

Currently, what cyber offences are most rampant?

Financial frauds and defamatory or obscene posts constitute a significant part of the reported crimes. Those are followed by hacking, data breach and thefts.

What has been the trend of cybercrime in the state over the years?

Until 2010, cybercrimes were an urban phenomenon. Things started changing with the availability of internet in rural areas, and later, with the introduction of 3G, 4G mobile phones and high-speed internet connectivity, which made online transactions easy.

At present, we have around seven crore mobile phone users in Maharashtra. When the reach increased, crimes rose as awareness and digital literacy among users are less. Now that the registration is rising, the figures are showing up.

Have you identified the areas where the problem is acute?

Semi-urban pockets are the most vulnerable areas, but of late, cases have gone up in deep rural pockets such as Chandrapur and Yavatmal districts.

What is the solution?

Like in some advanced countries, courses on digital security and internet hygiene should be included in school syllabus here, too. Media campaigns, similar to what we saw after the Blue Whale

Challenge case, should be initiated to increase awareness about digital safety. Finally, digital platforms need to increase their trustworthiness. Companies should detail their security standards and follow guidelines that, in turn, must be drawn up by authorised agencies.

Are we prepared to face the challenges at hand?

Frankly speaking, we are the best placed among all states in the country. Ours is the first state to have initiated full-fledged digital security programmes last year. Under the Maharashtra Cyber project, 48 cyber forensic labs, covering every district, have been set up, of which 44 are attached to police stations.

The registration of offences is high as we are even accepting complaints made over social media and other networking platforms. Our policemen are also undergoing training continuously to keep themselves updated with regard to cyber trends. The cyber labs help regular police stations in the investigation of tricky cases.

Why then is the detection rate for cybercrimes just 25 per cent, compared to 70 per cent for regular crimes?

The challenges are different in cyber offences and other crimes. Servers are often located continents away, and criminals operate from overseas. Physical boundaries are a huge impediment as many countries cite privacy issues and refuse to cooperate.

First Published: Nov 16, 2017 23:54 IST