Sunday, 5 February, 2023

Proliferation of digital tech vs risk of cybercrime

Proliferation of digital tech vs risk of cybercrime

In recent times, the spread and development of digital technology in Bangladesh is remarkable. At present, the number of mobile phone users in the country is about 16 crore, of which the number of internet users is 12 crore. Through this, any special government announcement is being delivered directly to those individuals and their families through mobile phone within short messages. Moreover, currently the citizens of the country can avail various services from the e-service centers established in 64 districts of the country by applying online. On the other hand, the information and directions of the Bangladesh government are being delivered directly to the people through the official website or web portal. Several government mobile helpdesks have been created in the country to spread these government information and services to remote areas of Bangladesh. People can easily get government information and services by calling the designated numbers of these mobile helpdesks.

Due to the development of digital technology, sending money from one place to another has become relatively easier and faster nowadays through postal cash cards, mobile banking, agent banking, electronic money transfer systems etc. Through internet and online banking, money can be transferred anytime quickly and at low cost. Moreover, customers can collect electricity, water and gas bills, publication of public examination results, school, college and university admission applications, examination registration, job application, birth registration, business establishment registration et cetera, train, bus and plane tickets online or mobile at home can be done

But the surprising thing is that with advanced technology, easy access and new platforms coming day-by-day, cyber crime and its risks are increasing at an alarming rate in the country. With the evolution of time, new forms of crime are also observed. According to recent data from the government’s Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) Cybercrime Unit, an average of 169 cyber cases were filed every month in 2020 under four different laws, but in 2021, this number increased to 194. In fact, the nature of cyber crime is changing day-by-day. Along with that, the number of crimes is also increasing, this is due to easy internet access and lack of surveillance. Most of these crimes are related to social media, e-commerce and f-commerce by capitalizing on human simplicity. Even foreign nationals have also been seen involved in such activities. For example, on April 21, the intelligence wing of the police arrested 11 Nigerian citizens on charges of fraud and embezzlement. Apart from Bangladeshi associates, these foreign nationals also targeted various people on Facebook and promised gifts after befriending them.

Basically, cyber security is the means by which we can protect our personal information, computers, our various digital devices - from hacking and various attacks. We now live in a completely networked environment. Internet access is now everything. Even our smart devices are connected to the internet world. On the other hand, crimes committed online using information technology and the Internet are called cybercrimes. Fraud is a big part of cyber crime, misidentification and false information are communicated to common people in various ways and attempts are made to deceive them. For example, there are often reports of money being stolen from mobile banking through fraud.

Several years ago on February 4, 2016, $81 million were stolen from the reserve of Bangladesh Bank. Unidentified people stole that huge amount of money from Bangladesh Bank’s reserves kept in Federal Reserve Bank of New York by using SWIFT payment method. The money went into four accounts at a Rizal Bank branch in Makati City, Philippines, and the money was quickly withdrawn from there. Later $15 million came back at different times, but $66 million have not been recovered yet. These dollars were not taken from Bangladesh Bank’s account or vault, but rather from Bangladesh’s reserve dollars kept in the Federal Reserve Bank of the United States through fraudulent hacking. Before this there was no interest or awareness among people about cyber crime and its security risks in Bangladesh. Ever since the theft of Bangladesh Bank’s reserves, the government, the country’s law enforcement agencies, the banking sector, and many others have been on the move and become proactive about cybercrime and security risks.

According to a recent report by the Cyber Police Center (CPC) of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the police, even just a few years ago, they received an average of around 1,500 cyber crime complaints every month, but now that number has increased to 2,500. Between May 2021 and March 2022, law enforcement agencies arrested around 28 people for crimes committed using the social media platform TikTok. Analyzing the nature of these crimes, it has been found that young women are mainly lured by the lure of being a ‘Tiktak star’. Once the victims step into that trap, the horrific torture and eventual psychological trauma begins. In such cases, the victims are known to be sexually harassed, raped and trafficked abroad.

The most important thing to survive any kind of cyber attack is to be aware and know how the attacks happen, how they harm any system and how to counter them. Good to know, one type of cyber attack is phishing, in this case the criminal will say that money has been stolen from his account, they are investigating the matter, they will ask you to provide the username and secret password. Now if you reply to the email they get your username and secret password and they start using it to harm you. There are more such as ‘social engineering’. They cheat on the phone in various ways and take your information from you. Now if you give away your password or any such important information then your financial loss can happen.

Besides, there are virus attacks that have been around for a long time. Viruses usually attack through unknown emails or files, you open a fake email and get an attachment, now if you open it, the virus will attack your computer. Apart from computers, mobile phones, IoT devices that run over the internet are all under threat. The biggest threat is ransomware. Through this, a virus will enter your computer and say, give us money, otherwise your computer will be damaged. The easiest way to avoid this situation is to know where the attack is actually coming from. So, caution should be taken while using the internet.

You can use complex passwords for your websites with different symbols, at least 10 to 20 characters long, preferably not birthdays or names. If you have to use multiple accounts such as bank, office PC or university ID, et cetera, you can use a password manager, in which you can keep all passwords in one place, in this case you can change complex passwords from time to time. Besides, now is the age of technology so you can use two factor authentication, it uses your password on top of your password and it is automatically managed. If you search on the internet, you can see that many organizations including Microsoft, Google are providing these services free of charge.

The government enacted the ‘Information and Communication Technology Act’ in 2006 for cyber security and crime prevention, investigation and prosecution. On the other hand, the ‘Cyber Security Act’ was enacted in 2015 with the same objective. The last Digital Security Act was enacted in 2018, though the law is considered as controversial to human rights groups. Various types of punishments including fines have been mentioned in these laws. In addition to being aware of cyber security, it is very important to know some very important things. Password, PIN, OTP et cetera should not be disclosed or shared with anyone. Usernames and passwords alone are not enough to keep you safe in the cyber world. To be safe from cyber crime, first of all, those who use online or social media, should read and know the laws well by going to the cyber crime department page of the government. Secondly, if someone offers love or business online, it should be thoroughly vetted. And thirdly, if one is a victim of cybercrime, one should not hesitate to disclose the whole matter as much as possible with information and seek the help of relatives or law enforcement agencies to solve the problem.


Md Zillur Rahaman, a banker and columnist