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Cyber Crimes during COVID-19

Today, the novel coronavirus has affected most of the countries in the world. India is one among them with over 3 lakh COVID-19 cases till date. With increasing COVID-19 cases, cyber-crimes are also increasing in the world.


What is cyber-crime?

Cybercrime, or computer-oriented crime, is a crime in which a computer and a network are involved. The computer is either used in the commission of a crime, or it may be the target. Cybercriminals threaten security and financial health of a person or a nation.

According to experts, cybercrime damages will reach $6 trillion annually by 2021, which will make it one of the most lucrative criminal enterprises in the world. As the Internet of Things (IoT) evolves and smart devices become more popular, cybercriminals get much broader attack surface, which increases their opportunities to penetrate security measures, commit crimes, and gain unauthorized access.


Cyber-crimes can be categorised as financial fraud crimes, cyber terrorism, cyber extortion, cyber sex-trafficking, cyber warfare, online harassment, etc.

How COVID-19 has affected cyber-crimes?

The risk of COVID-19 has forced governments across the world to announce lockdowns. Due to which, more people are confined at home with many more hours to spend online. People are increasingly relying on the Internet to access services, as they normally obtain it offline.


The dangers of cyber-crime have always been there for the past few decades. But the increase in the number of people connected to the Internet and the time spent online, combined with the sense of confinement, the anxiety and fear generated from the lockdown, have provided more opportunities to the cybercriminals to take advantage of the lockdown and make more money. Even the vulnerable segments of the population, i.e., children are spending more time online for schooling. This seismic change in how we live our lives and use the Internet has prompted a proliferation of e-crimes.


As per Google, Google registered 149,000 active phishing websites in the month of January, which nearly doubled to 293,000 in the month of February, and rose to 522,000 in the month of March, i.e., 350% increase during the lockdown.


Almost all the countries are reporting an increase in cybercrime during the pandemic. Cybercriminals are taking advantage of the anxieties and fears generated by the pandemic to damage, steal or cancel personal data on computers. Stolen data can be used for different malicious purposes, such as accessing bank accounts and blackmailing the victims in exchange of ransoms. An increase in attacks targeting businesses have also been recorded.


Many countries have registered cyber-attacks on national health institutions, which are extremely critical infrastructures during a pandemic. 


Even the World Health Organization (WHO) has also been attacked.


At the same time, the lockdown has also significantly increased its concerns about children and elderly people online. While children are using the internet for e-schooling and computer games, they are equally more exposed to threats coming from the internet, like file-sharing abuse, inappropriate content, and the grooming of children for sexual purposes. The elderly, who usually rely on offline services, are now forced to purchase what they need and obtain services from the internet, equally find themselves more exposed to cybercrime.


Another side-effect of the lockdown is the growing demand for pornography.

The pornography industry has seen the rise in the number of users, but also concerns are being raised about vulnerable section of the society being pushed into exploitation, including drug addicts and children trafficked by families in need.


How to prevent cybercrimes?

As it is always said that prevention is better than cure, we need to be highly vigilant to prevent ourselves from any form of cybercrime. It is recommended to be very cautious about phishing emails and websites, use only trusted Wi-Fi networks and practice good cyber hygiene. It is also recommended to use double channels of communications with counterparts before transferring sensitive data or downloading a file from an email that may contain malware. It is also important to educate children about cybercrimes.


If one becomes a victim of cybercrime, one must report the same to the local police or seek the help of the police cyber cell of one’s city.

For governments, it is recommended to treat cybersecurity as a critical organizational issue, embedded more security into the supply chain, encouraging the innovative cybersecurity solutions, collaborate with the private sector, and plan your talent needs carefully.


The lockdown due to COVID-19 has definitely increased the cybercrimes in the world. It is time for us to be vigilant and protect ourselves from any form of cybercrime. The United Nations and the governments across the world should tie up together to fight cybercrime and make the internet safe for people as well as nations.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aditi Banerjee, 1st Year student of B.B.A. LL.B. (Hons.) from Chanakya National Law University, Patna

You can contact the author at https://www.linkedin.com/in/aditi-banerjee-bb59631a1/

Editor:- Vijayalakshmi Raju

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