KATHMANDU: Evolution of technology has undeniably been a boon on many fronts, enriching our lives and uniting people across the globe. However, the groundbreaking techno-logical advances have also brought newer and more sophisticated challenges to the fore — that of cyber crimes.
To counter this growing misuse of information and communication technology (ICT), Nepal promulgated Electronic Transaction Act and Regulations in 2006, legalising all electronic transactions and digital signatures. The punishments are set in the Act, depending on the deceitful activities such as piracy, copyright violation, fraudulence, hacking and other misuse of technology and cyber crimes.
According to the law, perpetrators engaging in such crimes will be sentenced to imprisonment from six months to three years and fined between Rs 50,000 to Rs 300,000. However, strict implementation of this Act has not been noticed till date.
Tech travailsAccording to Sapana Pradhan Malla, advocate and founder member of the Forum for Women, Law and Development (FWLD), the most common cyber crime cases include incidences of anonymously sent vulgar pictures, sexual harassment and taking videos without consent, which are then shared online and go viral.
Malla says, “I have dealt with a case where a couple had captured their intimate moments on video and it somehow landed on the hands of a third party who circulated it on various online sites.” She informed that the case is in court for further investigation.
Reiterating the police data which reveals that most victims (30 out of 49 registered cases) were women, Malla opines that women and
children should be on their guards at all times. “In a society like ours, women and children have to deal with double victimisation when such cases are exposed and the situation is further aggravated in lack of proper counselling services,” she states.
Although the court sentenced the perpetrator to five years of imprisonment in one case related to video pornography, Malla believes the existing law needs amendment. She says, “The Act has not clearly defined whether culprits can get out of the sentence on bail or not, which leaves a window open for them to dodge the punishment altogether.” She, how-ever, stated that promul-gation of the Act in itself was laudable since crimes related to technology are now invest-igated separately.
Investigation impedimentsAgreeing that there is increase in the number of crimes related to technology, Devendra Subedi, chief senior superintendent of police at Metropolitan Police Crime Investigation Division (MPCID), Hanumandhoka, informed that of the 49 cases registered between 2009 till 2012, 14 were deemed ‘serious’ and have been sent to cort. “However, the actual number of cyber crime cases may be higher since many cases are never reported,” he says. According to the MPCID, the types of cyber crime common in the country include blackmailing, e-mail threats, ATM frauds, online pornography, digital piracy, counterfeiting, hacking, and networking business fraud, among others. The MPCID data reveals that 70 per cent of the cyber crimes reported since April last year are from Facebook (FB) users. In such cases, police with the help of Internet Service Providers’Association of Nepal (ISPAN) and Nepal Telecommunication Author-ity (NTC) take measures to inform FB headquarters located in the US to take necessary action. “After the complaints are filed, we track down the IP address of the perpetrator and head down to the location. But the task of determining the actual person becomes a challenge with the mushrooming of cyber cafes,” Subedi adds.
Binay Bohra, president of ISPAN — an umbrella organ-isation of 22 ISPs committed to advocate and support healthy internet industry — says, “Most cases brought to our notice include that of call bypass and online threats. While the Electronic Transaction Act clearly states that cyber cafes are required to adopt ID system, most are not abiding by the rules, which makes it difficult to determine the person who might have committed the crime.”
According to him, although the IT cases are solved from the District Court, ISPAN has been lobbying for a separate jurisdiction that will solely handle cyber related crimes. “We also believe that the authorities dealing with cyber crimes need to have sound knowledge about technology for better understanding of the case,” he says, adding that the laws need to be updated in tune with the upgrades in technology.
Present perils“The government, police, educational institutions, Office of the Controller of the Certification, National Information Technology Centre, Ministry of Science and Technology and also Comp-uter Association of Nepal (CAN) should join hands together for spreading awareness among the general public to help decrease cyber crimes,” says Amrit Kumar Pant, secretary of CAN.
According to him, while it is impossible to totally oblite-rate cyber misdeeds, a difference can be made through the collaboration of responsible media and organisations.
Regarding the status of complaints, Pant says, “Most cases are not even registered because majority of victims are not aware of the existing electronics Act and the complaints filing procedure is also lengthy and cumbersome.” Elaborating on this, Pant informs that cyber crimes are escalating because both the victims and the perpetrators of the crime are unaware that it is a serious offence. He adds, “Some criminals might perform such acts just because they are curious. However, the majority of criminals intentionally harm their victims.”
Till date, CAN has organised 25 programmes and six awareness campaigns outside and within the Kathmandu valley to sens-itise public about this issue. Pant believes that criminals who escaped scot-free earlier can now be punished if the complaints reach the correct outlet through specific mechanism. He states, “However, the government should be even more vigilant and monitor such act-
A major-ity of law experts believe that the increase in cyber crimes is mostly to be blamed on weak law enforcement. “There are incidents when the police act as a mediator between the victims and perpetrators and the cases are never filed,” says Advocate Madhav Kumar Basnet, adding, “But this might not be the best means to deal with the situation, as the culprit is let off the hook after only a verbal warning.”
Dr Gopal Krishna
Siwakoti, president of INHURED International, says, “While the law in itself leaves much to be desired, the political transition has created additional hurdles in its implementation.” Echoing Malla’s statement, he believes that women and children are hardest-hit due to the online sexual exploitation, which has escalated as a faceless crime in the form of porno-graphy and child abuse. “In the absence of strict cyber law, effective implementation and monitoring, Nepal has become a safe haven for paedophiles and human traffickers,” he claims.
Underscoring the need for proper monitoring and surveillance system in place backed by strict laws and effective implementation,
Siwakoti says, “The situation will blow out of proportion and invite uncontrollable menace if it is not dealt with utmost importance.” Along with massive awareness campaigns in schools, he stresses on the need for parental guidance and information diss-
emination to the mass about cyber crimes.