As we conclude the ‘Caught in a Web’ series on rising cybercrimes and challenges in ensuring justice to victims, these are some excerpts from a conversation with the man tasked to take this challenge head on – Bengaluru City Police Commissioner B. Dayananda.
Bengaluru has topped the charts in cybercrime cases in the country for many years now. In fact it accounted for over half of all cases registered in India in 2022 and the numbers are only rising. Why do you think there is such an upward trend in cybercrimes?
Cybercrimes made up 23% of all crimes registered in the city in 2023, even as physical crimes are on a downward trend. In our assessment, this trend will continue and white collar, contactless crimes will only increase. Since we started registering cybercrime cases in all police stations, and not just in the Cybercrime, Economic Offences and Narcotics (CEN) stations, reporting has increased. Though it bolsters our crime numbers, it offers a realistic picture of the crime scene.
When people travel in the physical world, they are so careful of their belongings, but they let their guard down in the virtual world. That is why even those who are digitally literate fall prey to cyber frauds. All one needs to do is to apply some common sense, which we use in the real world. Nobody will give their bank account details to a stranger in the physical world, but they do in the cyberworld. Moreover, people should learn that there is no free meal. It is our search for shortcuts and our fears and desires that are exploited by cybercriminals.
While the number of cybercrime cases is skyrocketing, investigation, recoveries and convictions into these cases are far from satisfactory. How equipped is the BCP to handle this?
I agree that there is a long road ahead. But we have busted some big cyberfraud rings in the past year. We now seem to have a handle over the major kinds of cybercrimes in vogue today, but there are already new modus operandi emerging. This is a cat and mouse game and we should keep at it constantly.
We are also constantly working on capacity building, streamlining investigation by forming Special Investigation Teams (SITs) headed by a Deputy Commissioner of Police for each kind of cybercrime. The Bengaluru police are credited with several pioneering initiatives in fighting cybercrimes. We were the first to establish CEN police stations, we started the Cybercrime Incident Report (CIR) which focuses on retrieving the swindled money in real time. These models are now being emulated elsewhere. We have also taken up several awareness campaigns.
What are the major challenges in cybercrime investigation?
Apart from the obvious – nature of cyber crime, which is contactless, accused being anonymous and that they could be based out of anywhere in the world, non-cooperation of banks and Internet intermediaries like virtual private networks (VPNs) are the major roadblocks.
To follow the money trail, banks need to cooperate with us. There are some bottlenecks with banks freely sharing information with us. I am now conducting monthly meetings with representatives of all banks and have been trying to evolve mechanisms for the free sharing of information.
Internet intermediaries are a different beast. Most of these companies, except VPNs, mostly cooperate. They reveal as much information as possible as per the laws of the countries they are based out of and beyond that, ask us to take the diplomatic route through the Interpol which is a laborious process.
CEN stations are understaffed and the paucity of human resources is also one of the major challenges, lower officers complain.
We are augmenting the staff strength at the CEN stations and by the end of next year, each station will have almost thrice its current strength. Moreover, we are also now probing cybercrime cases based on the modus operandi at the city level, than looking at individual cases at the station level. This approach has also helped us handle the challenge well.