Addressing the first National Conference of Investigative Agencies in New Delhi on 12 August 2016, Union Home Minister Shri Rajnath Singh informed that the Central Government has set up an Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Center (I4C) at the national level to deal with all types of Cybercrime. The Home Minister also stated that “Due to widespread use of Internet based social media by terrorists, we are facing new threats and to face these challenges, the present capabilities of specialized organisation like the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IN) and the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) must be strengthened. The two day conference was attended by officials of National Investigation Agency (NIA), CAPFs, DGPs of States/UTs, Central Police Organisations (CPOs) and the Heads of Crime Branches/ATS/Economic Offences Wing (EOW)/STF of States/UTs.1
Realization of threats posed by Cybercrime & Social Media and initiating organisational changes to tackle these is an excellent step in the right direction, however, the ubiquitous nature of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and the supranational origin of threats demands that the newly established I4C must also have representatives from the Defence, Finance and External Affairs ministry. Each of them is a potential target as well as an essential facilitator in prevention, prosecution and countermeasures.
A few well known examples below would amplify the point beyond doubt:-
- Cyber theft of $ 81 Million from the account of Bangladesh Central Bank held with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and its reported disappearing into Manila’s casino industry. Some reports hinted at North Korean hackers being behind the heist. Recent reports allege collusion between bank officials and foreign hackers 2
- The legend of Burhan Wani – described as the “Facebook Terrorist” and the unprecedented crisis fermented by his killing by security forces 3
- Extensive use of Social Media and apps by ISIS to ferment terror attacks and hunt for recruits 4, 5
- Not just terrorists or criminals – even nation states resort to cyber espionage and attacks. India has been at the receiving end of such attacks from China and Pakistan 6
Can such major criminal / terrorist / hostile acts be prevented or investigated by the newly created organisation without an integrated inter-ministerial approach and relying on experts from defence, finance and external affairs both within the I4C as also those on ground?
Lastly, the delineation between Cyber Warfare, Psy Warfare and Media has all but vanished and it is a continuous spectrum often employed in concert by terrorist organisations as well as hostile nation states inimical to India’s interests. An agency created with the mandate to jump into fray only after an FIR is registered at the local police station is not what the nation needs.
It is therefore to be hoped that the I4C quickly evolves into a more potent and meaningful organisation that can truly address the multifaceted challenges that the country faces on this front. Each ministry or department creating similar organisations to meet their own respective mandates will lead to the all too familiar quagmire and must be avoided at all cost.
- Press Information Bureau, Government of India, 12 August 2016
- Bangladesh Central Bank says withholding heist probe info from “foreign perpetrators” – Reuters, 14 August 2016
- Burhan Wani : Kashmir’s Facebook militant – Indian Express, 11 July 2016
- Not just Twitter: How IS is using social media, apps to recruit in India – Hindustan Times, 25 January 2016
- How ISIS Uses Social Media As A Hunting Ground For Recruits In India – The Huffington Post, 22 March 2016
- China and Pakistan’s recent Cyber Attacks on India and how we can prepare ourselves better – Indian Defence News Website, 28 March 2016