India’s cyber police target online imposters

India’s cyber police target online imposters

Top Stories | Feb 4, 2020:

Mandeep Singh

When Nidhi Agarwal, a resident of Hyderabad, India, discovered she had been robbed by an online imposter who had scammed her out of a one-time banking password, she reported the incident to her city’s Cyber Crime Police Station (CCS). When CCS resolved her case, Nidhi expressed her delight on the station’s Facebook page.

“Due to hard work and their teamwork today, I got my money back,” she beamed. “Thank you to the cyber crime police for their efforts, and salute to the department.”

Founded in 2001 as India’s first police station dedicated to register and investigate cyber crimes, CCS, pictured, connects directly with Hyderabad’s residents to fulfill its mission. In 2020, CCS will open cyber wings in every police station in the city. It is also hosting events such as a 36-hour “hackathon” to pair cyber police with students and entrepreneurs to devise solutions to cyber crime.

“The Hyderabad City Police is a tech-savvy force and has always been in the forefront of finding technologically enabled solutions to policing issues,” said U. Madan Kumar Goud, subinspector of police cyber crimes at CCS.

As a major technology hub and capital of the southern Indian province of Telangana state, Hyderabad is home to about 80 police stations. After the CCS dealt with 1,400 cyber crime complaints in 2019, Hyderabad Police Commissioner Adjani Kumar announced the plan to open cyber wings in December 2019.

Kumar acknowledged that while overall criminal cases were reduced in the city by 3% from 2018 to 2019, it was the growing incidence of cyber crimes that prompted the decision to open the new wings.

The rise in recorded cyber crimes may, however, owe more to changes in the way Indian police departments file cyber cases rather than an increase in actual crimes, The Times of India newspaper reported. New cyber wings have already begun to work closely with CCS to register and investigate the cases, Avinash Mohanty, joint commissioner of the city’s CCS and detective departments, told reporters.

The new wings will help process cyber cases, Kumar explained, and will make things easier for Hyderabad residents because they won’t need to register their complaints at CCS unless it is a major crime, reported The Hindu newspaper. Instead, they will report them to neighborhood police.

Most of the cases registered at CCS concern online fraud, social media abuse, source code theft and identity theft, according to Mohammad Riyazuddin, a CCS inspector. Kumar added that CCS will enhance its use of artificial intelligence in 2020 to analyze surveillance video and criminal activity in Hyderabad’s crime hot spots.

The 36-hour hackathon in January 2020 aims to find technological solutions to help police prevent and detect crime and protect the safety of women. The workshop will involve 50 teams of students and professionals with CCS mentors to assist them.

“This is a student- and startup-centric event,” added Goud, “where participants build and demo innovative ideas for a chance to win INR 1,00,000 [U.S. $1,400] and an opportunity to pilot their idea.”

Mandeep Singh is a FORUM contributor reporting from New Delhi, India.