The Internet has brought the entire world to our doorsteps. Every product is unique, no place is too far, and no service is too complex. We can gather knowledge, do business, get entertained, make friends and avail services through the Internet; however, in doing so, we have entrusted our personal and private data to multiple entities. We would be at risk if these entities were compromised and our data was publicized.
Any illegal behavior committed by or about a computer system or network, including such crimes as unlawful possession and offering or distributing information using a computer system or network or that targets the security of computer systems and the data they process, comes under cybercrime.
One common notion amongst the public and policymakers is that cybercrime is first-world-centric since the danger affects military applications of computers and telecommunications, the protection of intelligence data, and the protection of critical infrastructures because of the increasing use of digital control systems. Other prominent areas affected by cybercrime are e-business and digital transaction systems, which are again more common in rich countries.
However, the application of the Internet goes beyond military and critical infrastructure and e-commerce areas; likewise, the necessity of cybercrime policies also goes to a more basic level. This ubiquity means that the Internet is now as important in the third world, if not more, as it is in the first world nations, especially in providing government benefits. The Indian Government, to boost transparency and ease of governance, has made all of its schemes Aadhar Based, thereby making the population lacking even basic literacy a part of the digital system.
Post demonetization use of BHIM, RuPay, and PayTM has also seen a surge in the rural parts of the country. Due to their limited literacy, a large percentage of the population was not a part of the digital system and was therefore immune to cybercrimes. The current Government policies, however, have brought these people into the digital strategy and thus exposed them to the perils of cybercrime, compounded by their lack of literacy.
Some of the welfare schemes from the Government that require online approval and authentication, as well as direct money transfer, are mentioned below-
Economic- pension schemes like atal pension yojana, varishtha pension been yojana, and LPG subsidies like PM Ujjwala Yojana are direct benefit transfers, i.e., they get deposited directly to the beneficiary’s account.
Access to food- public distribution system (ration shops) are all Aadhar linked, and all benefits under National Food Security Act (NFSA) are provided post-Aadhar check.
Healthcare- the golden card used in the PM-JAY (Ayushman Bharat Yojana) is Aadhar linked to every beneficiary walking with approximately INR 100000 of the Government’s money in insurance.
Personal safety- 30 crore people in India have Facebook accounts, and a similar number of people are on WhatsApp. This exposes them to online extortion and other cyber crimes.
Safety of the community- hate speeches, false forwards, and fake news have spread widespread communal tensions leading to beef lynchings, mob lynchings, etc.
Political freedom- as demonstrated by the use of fake news to affect the American Elections, cybercriminals have shown their power to impact the functioning of a country.
According to the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IMAI), there are currently 580 million Internet users, with a growth rate of roughly 20% in India. India’s vast size limits the physical solution to many problems, and digital solutions are thus helping in solving many human and economic issues.
As per estimates, the internet population in India will be 70 crore by the end of 2019.
The increasing internet population will bring about a proportional increase in the number of victims and perpetrators of cybercrime. Thus, The Government must act decisively before the situation spins out of control.
Impacts of unchecked cybercrime
According to Jurisprudence, punishment serves the purpose of deterrence. Lack of cyber literacy amongst internet users leads to shallow reporting of cybercrimes. A combination of low reporting rates and technical limitations has created an open field for cybercriminals. The low barrier for entry has only added to the cause.
Numerous case studies in Africa have demonstrated that where cybercrime is unchecked, it eventually leads to the formation of criminal syndicates. Many crimes, like identity theft, fake profile creation, etc., do not require any technical expertise and thus lead to criminal creation in every other household; these are mostly tech-savvy and often unemployed youth. Similar to a pyramid scheme, the criminals are created, eventually leading to organized crime through various syndicates.
Cybercrime can also hugely impact the Government’s vision of a digital, cashless India. The beneficiaries of the Government’s social schemes are all from the weaker section of society with little to no economic cushion. Once duped, such a beneficiary would never be able to trust the digital world, severely limiting his ability to avail the benefits of digitization.
This lack of cyber deterrence and the growth of cybercrime syndicates may eventually lead to a gradual deterioration in trust in a country’s products, especially its services. Indian service exports comprise a large percentage of its total export; a loss of confidence in this sector might jeopardize tens of thousands of IT jobs and, consequently, India’s export earnings and growth.
The future of our nation depends on creating cyber awareness among the people, ensuring security in cyberspace, and bringing crimes to justice. Let us strive to protect our future.