Cyber crime in Pakistan witness massive rise

Cyber crime in Pakistan witness massive rise

LAHORE: The cybercrime rate in Pakistan was increased more than five times in the year 2020 despite technological innovation and existence of relevant laws, Pakistan Today learnt on Sunday.

The lack of enforcement of laws is said to be one of the major reasons for increased cybercrime in the country.

According to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), its cybercrime wing handled around 94,227 complaints of online crimes, including financial fraud, sexual harassment, cyber stalking and access to unauthorised accounts last year.

As a result of the complaints, 621 accused from 22 different groups were arrested and more than 20,000 electronic devices were confiscated by the agency last year.

According to data, the cybercrime wing also conducted special investigations into financial, defamation and harassment of women, child pornography and other high-profile cases last year.

A senior official of the agency informed that since the enactment of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) in 2016, the FIA has received thousands of complaints from across the country and most of the cases have been registered.

The official said that there are a total of 24 sections in the PECA and sections 10, 21 and 22 deal with non-bailable offenses. Section 10 deals with cyber-terrorism, 21 with spreading of porn images or videos of someone and 22 with making and disseminating porn images and videos of children, the official explained.

“The sale of illegal SIMs is an arrestable offense while illegal access to someone’s computer or mobile phone, defining or refining crimes in relation to terrorism or banned organisations, hate speeches or writing, electronic fraud or tampering, stealing and illegally using the identities of others, including bank account and national identity card numbers, are also considered cybercrimes according to the Act. Cyber stalking, that is stalking or harassing someone by sending repeated messages on the phone or the Internet without the recipient’s consent, is also a crime under the Act,” the official added.

He informed that 6.1 million dollars were flown out of the country in 90 minutes after the security breach of Bank Islami, adding that “During the lockdown, 8,000 complaints were received from Habib Bank alone. There are many kinds of crimes that can be committed with the help of gadgets. We have adopted e-commerce but we have not been made aware of it. Money transfer accounts have been opened but the relevant SOPs are not working.”

The official said, “The FIA has the highest number of cases of financial crimes, such as bank fraud, credit card and ATM card theft, and there is also an increase in complaints about child pornography. The conviction rate in cybercrime cases is very low, which is one of the reasons for the increase in crimes. The cybercrime wing faces various difficulties. In the cases of complaints filed regarding social media, the data is not available as it is not handled properly by the mobile companies. The financial institutions, like banks, delay in providing information and there is no central data bank, from where all the accounts of an identity card can be checked.”

On the other hand, an assistant director (AD) of the agency, said one of the reasons for the rising rate of cybercrime is the growing public awareness of online crimes. “The cybercrime rate could rise further in the next two years. Where technology comes with facilities, criminals also start using it for negative purposes. In the days of lockdown, there was a fear that due to increasing reliance on online shopping and banking, cybercrimes would increase in the country as well as around the world. Fortunately, it did not happen. One of the major reasons for this was that we had issued timely instructions to consumers to be vigilant and the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) had also warned that the people should avoid using public Wi-Fi as criminals can increase cybercrime by swindling coronavirus information,” he said.

“A special operation against child sexual abuse was launched last year as a total of 24 criminal cases were registered and 26 accused were arrested. Three major gangs involved in crimes were also arrested. The cybercrime wing is trying to create awareness among the public about cybercrimes through its social media accounts. Various guidelines are also issued on the FIA’s website.”