The government of India has planned an apex co-ordination center in Delhi to fight cyber crime, the Home Ministry told PTI. States have been asked to establish similar mechanisms in every district. Rs. 83 crore has been provided towards setting up of a cyber forensic training laboratory-cum-training center for police officials in each state, under the Cyber Crime Prevention against Women and Children Scheme (Cyber Crime Wing) .
The PTI report mentions 1,44,496 cyber security attacks were reported in India between 2014-16. However, as per NCRB (pdf), the total appears to be 33,401 – much lesser than the figure quoted:
The difference may perhaps be attributable to the number of attacks that resulted in police cases versus the number of attacks brought to the attention of the MHA.
The government has given an 8-point guideline to states to establish cyber crime fighting cells to deal with cyber crime like financial fraud, defacement of government websites, online stalking and harassment, data theft, phishing, scanning or probing, malware, DDoS, circulation of communal and pornographic content.
Actions planned under this initiative include monitoring of the internet and social media with emphasis on vernacular content, block websites that flout India’s laws, publish child porn or communally or racially sensitive content and maintain a list of suspects and leads generated during investigations in cyber crime cases to be shared securely with law enforcement agencies.
A new wing of the Home Ministry has been formed to handle this new technical and legal challenge in a country with growing internet use – Cyber and Information Security Division.
States have also been instructed to expedite formation of cyber and mobile forensic labs, to identify specific needs for research and development and make recommendations for amendments in legal and policy framework dealing with cyber crime.
“Communally sensitive” is open to interpretation and is subjective. It thus presents an ever-present risk that subjective discretion may result in prosecution or the lack of it and in our opinion, weakens the overall robustness of the system. There is a need to narrowly and specifically define what constitutes as crime as well as limit the scope and nature of the monitoring and surveillance information collected and shared with intelligence agencies to what is specifically needed.
While combating cyber crime is important, mentions of deep monitoring of the web and “communally and racially sensitive content” also raise concerns of surveillance. There does not appear to be specificity of purpose attached to the monitoring.
Vague definitions of the law have, in the past been interpreted to taste and been used to silence dissent or whistleblowers. While the earlier 8 point guidelines from the ministry to the states mentioned the recommendations of the expert committee headed by former Lok Sabha Secretary General T K Viswanathan, which in turn references the recommendations made in the report of the law commission on Hate Speech, both the 8 point guidelines as well as the current news utilize vague terms rather than the specific language used by the two documents.