As the modern world embraces digital technology on an unprecedented scale, crimes, especially financial frauds, are catching up fast. Cracking these with the conventional policing machinery is near impossible. It's a fact that no one is completely immune to cyber frauds. Kerala police is constantly upgrading its cyber prowess to fight the digital demons. Cyberdome, a wing of the Kerala police that deals with cyber crime, is one such step. The state has often borne the brunt of ATM skimming and other digital robbery.
Inspector-general of police (IG) Manoj Abraham, IPS, nodal officer, Cyberdome, elaborates the features of the tech-oriented policing apparatus and the cyber threats that general public should be aware of.
The major cyber threats that Kerala is exposed to as the world is getting increasingly digital?
Basically, with the digital world growing fast, all our transactions, communication and businesses are going digital. Even government service delivery is going digital. Money is a major factor in crime. So, when money goes digital, crime too goes digital. Digital financial transactions will face the biggest problems in future. If you have to rob a house, there should be physical intrusion. But in the digital world, fraudsters intrude into your 'secure' cyberspace' from alien turfs anywhere in the world. So, crime in the financial sector is going to go up and that is going to be the biggest threat.
Challenges faced by police in tackling cyber crime
The cyber world throws up its set of unique problems for the police. In the traditional world, a police officer can be imparted topical training in six months. But the cyber world is totally different. Technology overtakes you every time a batch is trained in tackling a particular type of cyber crime. In this scenario, the police cannot handle the crime using conventional methods. The sustained support of experts, who are abreast with the latest technology, is required. That's why we are the potential of public-private participation in handling digital crime.
At Cyberdome, we get the services of various domain experts on a single platform. In western countries, NGOs and universities support the police.
We hear of victims losing cash overnight due to ATM card skimming and other online frauds. What happens after that, usually. Do they get back the money or suffer the loss for ever?
The police and the banks have been creating awareness on this. We have been trying to tell people that no OTP features or bank card details should be shared over the phone or by any other means. Yet, many people get fooled. We are working on a system to bring all banks, e-commerce companies and digital mobile wallets on a common platform. This will enable swift blocking of transaction in case of a complaint. Like that we have saved around Rs 28 lakhs. The banks usually reimburse the money if there in no mistake on the part of the victim. As per RBI rules, if any ATM fraud takes place unintended (where the victim has not divulged OTP or other details) no inquiry or investigation is required and the entire money has to be reimbursed by the bank.
Cyberdome's functions for the general public?
Cyberdome tries to prevent cyber crimes. In traditional policing, officers do patrolling. Similarly, Cyberdome does a lot of cyber patrolling. We identify possible threats and issue advisories and notifications. In case of malware or banking frauds we look at the cyber world and take note of what is happening.
Crimes on social media
A lot of crimes are committed on social media, like fake recruitment and fake lottery scams. We have a new research and analysis wing, a ransomware school, a social media analysis school, which actually tries to look at the latest problems of big banks or organizations.
The technology features that Cyberdome boasts of
We have some of the best software available to look at social media, like the HP IDOL and ASMA. These apart, we have cyber forensic tools to analyze issues with computers and mobile phones. Then we have a software called Piracy Tracker to detect film piracy on the net. Then there are software to prevent child pornography.
Can a layman approach the Cyberdome directly in the event of a cyber threat?
They can, but we don't investigate cases. When a cyber crime occurs, it is reported to the cyber cell. The cyber cell refers it to us if they cannot handle it. If one knows of a major cyber racket, any citizen can approach us. We may be reached through all social media platforms or on our website: http://www.cyberdome.kerala.gov.in/contactus.html
What are the precautions people should take to avoid falling prey to online fraud?
It is relatively difficult to get people to know of the dangers of the cyber world in comparison to the traditional ones. We release advisories and video clips on basic cyber safety aspects. We come out with tips to tackle threats and stay away from 'games' like blue whale challenge. For the internet, we need to be careful and ensure safety from a user point of view. The perpetrators of cyber crimes are not always physically accessible and may remain elusive in foreign countries. So, staying safe is the best way out.