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Cybercrime increases by 83pc in three years

August 28, 2021

ISLAMABAD: Cybercrime in Pakistan has increased by 83pc in the past three years with financial frauds at social platforms at the top.

Last year, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) seized 30 gateways involved in gray trafficking, which averted Rs2.9 billion loss to the public exchequer every month, according to data shared by the FIA with The News.

Further, it was learnt that the accumulative ratio of various types of cybercrimes during the last three years reflects that financial frauds, harassments, fake profiles, defamation and hacking are the fastest growing cybercrimes in Pakistan.

An analysis of the trend of the medium usage in total complaints received during the years shows that Facebook, WhatsApp and email are the most frequently used mediums in cybercrimes in the country. Besides, 104 fraudulent transactions in the Ehsaas Programme were also detected by FIA's Cyber Crime Wing (CCW) and 95 inquiries and 10 cases were registered, leading to the arrest of 22 offenders and recovery of approximately Rs4m.

The data available with this correspondent also shows that in each of the three years, Lahore registered most complaints settling it on top of the chart followed by Karachi, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Multan, Faisalabad and Gujranwala. Afzal Shigri, former Inspector General of Police, told The News that laws dealing with such crimes needed to be refined. "Law in Pakistan just exists on paper. The crime will increase unless punishment is ensured," he added. Explaining about financial frauds and their major contribution to the overall cybercrime statistics, he said, "In recent developments, the government structures have been introduced to social platforms, fully exposed to the cyber world giving an open invitation to hackers. This puts developed capabilities and capacities into a more challenging state."

When asked about the emerging cases of harassment being the second most cybercrime type in Pakistan, Afzal stressed that the government should make efforts to educate the youth about the positive use of the internet. "Children nowadays have access to mobile phones and social media and how they use it only God knows. There is no control of elders. The internet has harmed our culture and our young ones are vulnerable."

However, Dr Shoaib Suddle, who also served as IG Sindh, said the statistics might give a wrong impression and in reality the crime might not be increasing at all or vice versa. Elaborating his point, he said the registered complaints might have increased due to better awareness and acknowledgment of the CCW by the general public. "Cybercrime might also be happening earlier but not being reported or registered," he argued. He also believed lack of sources to be an important factor in the overall increased crime rate in Pakistan. "Here, new wings are created with a budget for 10 people to deal with a problem that actually requires 100," Dr Shoaib explained.

The data shows that cybercrime complaints have escalated enormously, up to 83pc from 2018 to 2020. In 2018, the Cyber Crime Wing dealt with a total of 16,122 complaints while in 2020, the number was over 94,000. Out of the total complaints, 60pc were reported in the past year, 30pc in 2019 and 10pc in 2018. Over 44,000 complaints related to financial frauds were registered and dealt with in the past three years. Whereas, 22,255 harassment complaints, 15,000 hacking, 10,358 defamation and 16,601 complaints of fake profiles were registered from 2018 to 2020. The additional categories or types of cybercrime include blackmailing, threats, stalking, blasphemous contents, spamming, pornography, child pornography, spoofing, identity theft etc.

Facebook remains at top with a total of 42,357 complaints of cybercrime reported during 2018 to 2020. WhatsApp came in second with approximately 18,000 complaints followed by emails and phone calls with 14,109 and 8,618 complaints respectively. Other mediums used for cybercrime includes Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat, TikTok and other social media platforms.

The data shows that complaints related to cybercrime have grown steadily in major cities of Pakistan in the past three years. In 2020, Lahore registered over 19,000 complaints, Karachi over 12,000, while Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Multan, Faisalabad and Gujranwala registered 11,126, 9,780, 8,573, 7,273 and 5,323 complaints respectively. These are top five cities where most cases of cybercrime were reported in the past three years.

The FIA disposed of 100,357 complaints in 2020, which is around five times more than what were disposed of in 2018. In addition, the department completed three times more inquires in 2020 than in 2019 and issues twice more challans than 2019.

With over 20,000 gadgets seized by the department in the three years, 24 FIRs against child abuse/ pornography were registered with the arrest of 26 offenders and busting of three gangs. More importantly, 104 fraudulent transactions in the Ehsaas Programme were detected by the CCW and 95 inquiries and 10 cases were registered, leading to the arrest of 22 offenders and recovery of approximately Rs4m.