Online frauds become uglier, criminals loot people on pretext of jobs, bill payments

By: Supriya Ramesh/IANS

New Delhi: Those days are long gone when cheating people for money would be limited to fooling them about their debit cards being blocked by the bank and retrieving OTP by convincing them.

In the age of the internet, we now have different kinds of uglier frauds happening online under the pretext of offering jobs, payment of electricity bills, cryptocurrency investment, insurance fraud, sextortion and more.

Swindlers reach out to people via SMS, call, email, or other ways to get personal information. They often use malicious links directing an individual to an app or website to hack into the computer, mobile device, or network to get sensitive information, such as bank account numbers, credit card details, and social security numbers.

Emerging technologies are being extensively misused for criminal purposes like Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Now, there is darknet (where people anonymously communicate and share files with each other) and find various websites advertising. Their cyber crime is a service powered by AI.

People have started using ChatGPT — a chatbot developed by OpenAI — by appropriate prompt command engineering in such a manner that they are forcing the software to come up with new innovative approaches on how to commit criminal activities.

With these kinds of options coming in, we are now finding a scenario where the country needs to address the issues of cyber crime and emerging technologies.

Everybody is a potential target today, from digital stakeholders to users. It is a threat to individuals, corporations, nations and to the enjoyment of individual digital rights, but if we start inculcating cyber security as a way of life in our lives, it could be a good starting point.

To date, however, what remains a challenge is the detection of cases and awareness about cyber fraud.

Post-pandemic, the internet has become an integral part of our lives and this rings an alarm for every stakeholder to be sensitised about the significance of cyber security and how to deal with it.

We have started giving devices to children at a very young age, which is a very convenient way of putting them into deep waters without even telling them how to swim in these deep waters of the internet.

The Chairman of International Commission on Cyber Security Law, Pavan Duggal, told IANS that he has been educating and advising the government, including the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), that we now need to incorporate cyber crime and cyber law education as a part of the school curriculum from the first standard onwards.

Talking about sensitising people about cyber security, Duggal said there should be first a proper allocation of budget for cybercrime. Secondly, the law enforcement agencies and police officers should be made aware of it.

“People shudder to go to the police station because they fear potential harassment at the end of the police and most of the time the police officers are not very clued as to how to deal with electronic evidence,” Duggal said.

Looking at the country’s size — 1.4 billion people — and comparing it with the number of sensitisation programmes, there’s a huge gap.

“The judges need to be sensitised as, ultimately, the judiciary is a relevant entity which will have to go ahead and interpret the provisions of law. Most of the time, the judge would know the facts of the case, but then the judge has no control on what kind of evidence the law and enforcement agency brings across to prove particular charges. So, across the ecosystem, stakeholders have to be more sensitised,” Duggal added.

City dwellers could still be well up on cyber frauds and securing themselves, but awareness about it in rural areas is still a big deal.

Duggal said: “Cyber crime programmes, specifically in the rural, semi-rural and semi-urban areas, need a big thrust because that is where most of the victims are targeted. However, it’s not that if you are educated, you won’t be a victim… It is just that the chances of an educated person being a victim is relatively less.”

Most of the time, fraudsters are looking for a vulnerable moment, so that they can strike their prey. They play a mind game by gaining people’s confidence or putting people in fear or panic mode.

“During Covid-19, fear and panic were our constant companions and cyber criminals realised the efficacy of these two elements. They put you in fear or panic mode by saying things like your credit card is getting stopped or electricity is getting disconnected, basically something that’s going to immediately make you panic,” Duggal said.

“Cyber criminals mostly want to go ahead and target your systems. They want to look at your behaviour patterns by monitoring your data,” he added.

“If you’re able to empower the targets of cyber criminals, at least you’re able to mitigate a large number of these challenges by cyber crime. However, more money needs to be allocated for cyber education, cyber awareness and cyber capacity building,” Duggal concluded. (IANS)

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