In mid-August, Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) arrested two mobile phone repairmen, Sabuj and Madhu. They were found guilty of using their jobs to acquire personal information and content from various women.
The two men would take these files from the mobile phones of women who brought them in for repair. They also accessed their IMO messenger apps and ran them in parallel on their own devices, reading personal messages. The duo used all this information to blackmail a number of women.
Cyber crime is on the rise, according to numbers from the Police Headquarters.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) Commissioner Asaduzzaman Mia, responding to a question from journalists at an event on cyber crime in August, said that cyber crime is a growing trend and has become a threat to public safety. The time has come to think of how this crime can be prevented, he added.
“Needless to say, the ability to prevent cyber crime is not yet fully developed, but we are trying,” he said.
Some officials working on prevention of cyber crime say they face several administrative and structural problems. BTRC needs to have the necessary cooperation agreements with Facebook and Google authorities, they said. The officials have also asked the government to increase the number of technical equipment and trained manpower.
Nazrul Islam, a special public prosecutor (PP) of Cyber Crime Tribunal in Dhaka, told the Dhaka Tribune that not only with phones, there are also a growing number of cyber crimes committed via social media including Facebook. As a result, the number of cases is increasing in the tribunal.
Over 250 such cases are under investigation across the country. Meanwhile there are about 400 cases under trial in this tribunal. About 35% of cases have been settled through trial, PP Nazrul Islam said.
Cases on the rise
According to the Police Headquarters, 1,417 cases were filed under the Cyber Security Act 2006 from 2012 to June 2017. Police have pressed charges in 748 of these cases and submitted final reports for 179.
Of these, 19 cases were filed in 2012, 48 filed in 2013, 149 in 2014, 303 in 2015, 546 in 2016 and 352 in 2017, up to June.
According to the Cyber Crime Investigation Centre at the police Criminal Investigation Department (CID), different units of police work on cyber crime. However, only CID has a forensic lab to help detect or investigate such crimes.
The unit received 25 complaints in 2013, when it started. Then in 2014, it increased to over 70. There were 217 complaints in 2015, 575 in 2016 and more than 600 complaints filed in 2017 up to just July. Among them, the majority of complainants were women.
On the other hand, the Cyber Crime unit under the Counter terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) said they had received over 500 complaints since starting the unit, among which they had filed cases after inquiry for 150. Another 55 cases were under investigation.
Crimes committed with the aid of computers and the internets are cyber crimes. These can include virus attacks, hacking, using fake IDs or e-mails, threatening or bullying over the internet, lying or propaganda, sexual harassment over the internet, theft of information, money, dealing in illegal products, copyright violation, pornography, militant propaganda and communication.
Najmul Islam, additional deputy commissioner of Cyber Crime unit of CTTC told the Dhaka Tribune: “We get more complaints of Facebook or email account hacks and information theft via other means. In addition, there are complaints of false information and fake social media accounts and propaganda.”
In Dhaka, there is a chance to meet or complain directly to the cyber crime unit, the officer said.
Women the main victims
More than 17,000 complaints were submitted to the ICT Division's Cyber Help Desk in the two years that it was open, an official from the division said.
Among those, 70% of the complainants were women. More than 60% of women had faced some form of harassment on Facebook.
About 10% of the victims had very serious allegations. Their images were stolen, merged with pornographic images and then released on the internet.
ICT Division Public Relations Officer Abu Naser told the Dhaka Tribune that the division launched the help desk collaborating with Insight Bangladesh Foundation and ran till June last year.
“We are going to open a desk again once the Digital Security Act is passed in parliament. Right now individual issues are being dealt by law enforcement agencies,” he added.
“We now have a section called Cyber Incident Response Team (CIRT), which responds to organisations whose websites or networks come under cyber attack.”
Police Headquarters Assistant Inspector General (media) Sohely Ferdous told the Dhaka Tribune that cyber crimes are becoming more likely the more advanced technology gets.
“We monitor social media on behalf of the police. We have been trying to prevent cyber crimes on the basis of our logistics support. We are trying to increase our capacity,” she said.
Mollah Nazrul, special superintendent of police with the CID told the Dhaka Tribune while CID had the only cyber crime forensic lab in the country but it had little manpower to handle such cases.
“We have applied for more manpower. We hope that we will be able to fulfill the expectations of the people in this field if our manpower increases,” he said.
How to stay safe from cyber crimes
Amit Seal Ami, a lecturer from the Institute of Information Technology at University of Dhaka, offers some basic rules you can follow to keep yourself safer from cyber crimes.
For your phone:
Your smartphone is like a key to all your accounts and contents. If you give it to someone, you are basically giving away the key. Therefore, avoid doing that unless absolutely necessary.
It is better to save all your photos and personal files to a memory card. Before giving your phone to repair, store the card somewhere safe. If possible, log out of all accounts in the phone in advance and erase contents. Otherwise, install a mobile app that will ensure that the phone is reset the moment is turned on either via SMS or right after connecting to the Internet. This will also keep your personal contents safe in case your phone is stolen.
It is better to avoid using open wifi networks overall.
For your social media accounts:
Use lengthy passphrases combining alphabets, numbers and symbols. For example, "[email protected]
" is far better than "password". Of course, you can and should connect words to create a better length password, such as "this is my password" can be written like this - "[email protected]
". Additionally, a two factor authentication will give better security in case your password is stolen.
Staying logged in is risky. If typing passwords is a chore, it is better to use a master password app or software.
Check your privacy settings and activity logs regularly to check for suspicious activities. If your account is compromised, the perpetrator is probably hiding any malicious activities after doing so to remain hidden.
As a general safety, do not give away your phone number or address and do not post text or photos that give away your personal information. That includes your current location as well.
Be extremely cautious when accepting friend requests from strangers.