The Rise of Cybercrime amid Digitalization

    • By,
      Vishaka Agnihotri – Student, Kautilya

Cybercrime refers to the use of technology to pursue illegal and criminal ends. The terms “cyberstalking” and “cyber harassment” are frequently used interchangeably to refer to those who pursue targets online to intimidate or humiliate the target. While stalkers typically seek retribution or attention, harassers occasionally try to either gather information or threaten the target.

Cybercrime against women is rapidly increasing in the era of digitalization, especially in a country like India which reveals loopholes in the existing laws and policies of the judicial and legislative framework. Women, especially young girls are affected by cyber harassment, cyberstalking, sextortion, cybersex trafficking, cyber hacking, etc. The conviction rate for cyber crimes remains low as on average 87% of cases related to cyber crimes were pending trial at the end of the year.

What does it mean to be secure, or to be insecure? In matters of cybercrime against women which is an empirical reality. How are priorities decided and policies implemented?

The use of technology has highlighted how technological developments can impact the daily lives of individuals, potentially putting them at risk. Data can now be easily captured from things such as loyalty cards, cloud service providers, social media, e-mail, internet usage, etc. The majority of the communication and information infrastructure is owned by private companies that collect data on their users on an unprecedented scale. The pervasiveness of technological developments has made it impossible for individuals to live ”off the grid”. In a sense, it is surveillance by the consent of individuals as technology has come to permeate all segments of our lives. According to Accenture’s State of Cybersecurity Resilience 2021 report, security assaults climbed 31% between 2020 and 2021. Every year, there were 270 more attacks on each company, up from 206.

Cybercrime has globalized as a nasty side-effect of the political and economic liberalization of the world. The complexities and paradoxes that globalization brings is also apparent when examining the cases of cybercrime against women. A further way in which globalization has provided criminals opportunities concerns how the phenomenon has changed societies and altered lifestyles. According to the 2021 National Commission for Women Reports, the number of cybercrime against women has surged dramatically during the lockdown. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) compiles and publishes statistical data on crimes in its publication ”Crime in India”. The latest published report is for the year 2020.

In most of the cybercrimes against women, the burden to seek and receive justice lies on the most vulnerable, the victim. According to UN Women, acts of violence cause more death and disability among women aged between 15-44 than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war combined. In the twentieth century, more women have died owing to the ”societal devaluation of female life’’ than people have died as a result of war/civil strife. The speed with which cyberspace has pervaded our lives and opened up opportunities for new types of security threats is evident in today’s world. Many security analysts argue that in an increasingly interconnected world, everything becomes vulnerable because everything can be disrupted. Effective cyber security cannot realistically prevent every attack, though it can mitigate the worst effects of an attack by attempting to reduce the extent or duration of any disruption caused by the initial attack.

A key problem for cyber security analysts revolves around attribution and retribution. It may be possible to determine where an attack has come from but impossible to determine if it has been launched by an individual or by a gang for criminal purposes. This creates difficulties in apportioning blame and deciding what response might be appropriate. There is much discussion about whether we need a deterrence strategy for cyberspace. Depending on the nation, different laws may be in place to prohibit this activity, thus victims should report their situation to local law enforcement agencies. There is an increasing need for sensitization and awareness of law enforcement agencies regarding the gravity of cyber crimes. Awareness campaigns pertaining to safeguarding online identity and the protection of personal data are needed on a large scale to reduce the number of victims of cyber crimes. Law Enforcement Agencies are responsible for taking legal action in line with the Indian Penal Code and the Information Technology Act,2000 against cyber fraud.

There are some legal remedies under numerous statutes that can help a person who is a victim of cyber violence, even though a full regulatory framework concerning legislation controlling the cyber domain, specifically such crimes, is yet to be developed. So far, 156 countries have enacted legislations pertaining to cybercrimes. Prior to 2013, there was no law specifically addressing online harassment or crimes against women in cyberspace. Sections 354A through 354D of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 were added by the Criminal Amendment Act of 2013 to the Indian Penal Code to address cybercrime against women.

The United Nations 2030 Agenda has emphasized the potential of digital technology to enhance sustainability performance. Organizations and regulators could better understand and manage cyber risk as part of their environment, social and governance strategy concerns with the use of a standardized framework for monitoring cyberspace. Companies like Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and Netflix have more engaged customers and annual revenue than entire nations like Canada, Brazil, and Russia. Due to the intricacy of constantly evolving new business models and the expansion of many technology companies, government regulations alone cannot effectively control all companies.

*The Kautilya School of Public Policy (KSPP) takes no institutional positions. The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author(s) and do not reflect the views or positions of KSPP.