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What NCRB’s 2020 report says about cybercrime in India

The bureau’s numbers on cybercrime reveal which states lead in ransomware attacks, OTP fraud, and more.

Cybercrime statistics continue to balloon in India as connectivity increases and police start grappling more fully with the challenges due to malfeasance online. This year is no exception, according to data released by the National Crime Records Bureau for the year 2020 (crime records usually get published at a national level several months after a year has ended). Based on a review of NCRB’s historical data by News18, cybercrime reports to the police have jumped almost nine fold since 2013, a significant increase.

While the bureau is quick to warn that this data doesn’t necessarily translate to more crime (and may just mean that people are getting better about reporting it), the trends captured by the report are interesting to identify. The data shows how fraud is the most commonly recorded crime in Indian cyberspace; the emergence of newly proliferating crimes such as ransomware attacks; the data also reveals deep disparities in the registration of cases against such crimes in different states and union territories. Here are a few extracts from the data.

What cybercrime looks like in India

In 2020, 44,511 cybercrimes were reported to the police from states, and 44,735 were reported from union territories (Delhi accounts for the largest share among union territories). 47.5% of cases led to charge sheets, according to the statistics.

  • Tampering cases most in KA, UP: “Tampering Computer source documents,” prohibited under Section 65 of the Information Technology Act, 2000, was a charge brought most frequently in Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh. Most states had single digit incidences of such crimes, whereas Karnataka and UP clocked 191 and 118 charges respectively. Karnataka leads — by far — in chargesheeting of total computer-related offences, with 10,109 cases. UP is a distant second with a total of 6,616.
  • Ransomware cases highest in UP, Jharkhand: Ransomware cases were zero in most states, but in Jharkhand, 49 cases were recorded, with Uttar Pradesh logging 618. Karnataka only clocked 23 ransomware cases. Identity theft was highest in Karnataka, with 3,513 cases, the majority of the year’s 5,148 reported cases.
  • Privacy violations, obscenity: UP and Assam led in cases registered for violation of privacy, with 533 and 46 cases respectively. A total of 742 such cases were registered. For publishing explicit/obscene material, Uttar Pradesh and Assam accounted for more than half of the ~9,000 cases.
  • Fraud: Fraud dominated as the most frequent motivator of cybercrime. Maharashtra and Telangana dominated fraud cybercrime registrations, with 2,032 and 3,316 cases registered respectively. Some states like Tamil Nadu only registered cases in the single digits; this may be because police there are registering such crimes under different statutes.
  • Telangana tops OTP fraud: Telangana has the highest incidence of one-time passcode related frauds, with 525 cases in 2020, with all states totalling only 1,091 such cases.
  • Fake news: Telangana and Uttar Pradesh topped fake news FIRs. Among union territories, police only recorded fake news charges in Jammu & Kashmir, with 15 cases.
  • Fraud, extortion top motivations: On top of fraud, extortion and “causing disrepute” topped the police’s recorded motivations of people charged with cybercrime. “Personal revenge” ranked next, with “anger” following it. Pranks were the least common motivator of cybercrimes.

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I cover the digital content ecosystem and telecom for MediaNama.

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