Digital Arrest

Digital Arrest


Why in the News?  

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is warning about a new online fraud scheme dubbed ‘digital arrest,’ in which cyber criminals impersonate police officials to extort money from victims. The ministry highlights various tactics used by fraudsters, such as fake parcel deliveries or fabricated arrests. 

About digital Arrest: 

  • Digital arrest scams occur when cybercriminals pose as law enforcement or customs officials. They trick individuals into thinking they’re facing legal action for non-existent crimes, manipulating victims into complying with their demands. This deceptive practice exploits the fear of legal trouble to extort or deceive.
  • Victims are tricked into believing”they’re under “dig” or arrest” by cybercriminals, who demand payment while making them stay visible on Video calls, leading them to self-quarantine until they comply.
  • Scammers use psychological tactics, instilling fear and a sense of urgency, to pressurise victims into paying money or divulging personal details to prevent a supposed “arrest.” 
  • These schemes often involve fraudulent phone calls, emails, or social media communications in which the scammers allege the victim’s participation in unlawful acts like smuggling or fraud. 
  • Individuals frequently face requests to share confidential details or remit funds to exonerate themselves from baseless charges. Such frauds can culminate in substantial monetary detriment and the theft of personal information, with incidents documented in several Indian states.
  • Examples of digital arrest include China’s deployment of a widespread surveillance system, utilising cameras with facial recognition technology to oversee and regulate its citizens. This practice has raised substantial global apprehensions about privacy and human rights. 

Ethical and Legal Implications: 

The deployment of digital technologies by law enforcement agencies brings to the forefront various ethical and legal challenges, such as:

  1. Extensive surveillance and data collection practices could infringe on personal privacy rights.
  2. Technologies such as facial recognition may suffer from inaccuracies and biases, which could result in incorrect arrests or the unfair targeting of particular demographics. 
  3. Ensuring due process involves collecting and utilising digital evidence to uphold legal requirements and individual rights.
  4. Law enforcement agencies must be open about digital technologies and take responsibility for their conduct to uphold public confidence. 

The National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal (NCRP) has received numerous reports of cybercriminals impersonating law enforcement agencies, such as police, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the Narcotics Department, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), and the Enforcement Directorate (ED), engaging in activities like intimidation, blackmail, extortion, and making false arrests. Intelligence Agencies have identified these activities as components of a larger, organised online economic crime operation orchestrated by international criminal networks. 

In collaboration with Microsoft, the Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Center (I4C) under the Ministry of Home Affairs has successfully blocked over 1,000 Skype IDs. The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has released warnings to inform the public about counterfeit calls that threaten service termination and has implemented several strategies to tackle potential fraud in communications. E.g., under the Sanchar Saathi initiative, 52 organisations responsible for distributing harmful and phishing text messages have been placed on a blacklist. 

Way Forward: 

  • Establish robust password protocols that necessitate a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, digits, and symbols. Employ password managers to create and safeguard distinct passwords for various accounts. Utilise protected methods of communication such as HTTPS and VPNs. Ensure operating systems, programs, and apps are consistently updated with the newest security fixes.
  • Ensure tight access restrictions are in place so only those with proper authorisation can reach confidential data. Employ role-based access control (RBAC) to allocate access rights depending on the individual’s job function. Formulate and upkeep an elaborate plan for incident response to efficiently handle and lessen the impact of cyber fraud. Consistently evaluate and refine this incident response strategy.
  • Installed trusted antivirus and anti-malware programs, ensuring that operating systems and software are consistently updated to adhere to current security measures. Offered ongoing training for all staff on identifying phishing efforts, social engineering schemes, and various prevalent scam strategies. 
  • Promoted an environment where security consciousness and accountability are paramount. Initiated campaigns aimed at the public to spread knowledge about secure internet usage and identify possible fraudulent activities. 
  • Collaborate closely with law enforcement bodies to address and report instances of cyber fraud. Engage in networks that share information to remain updated on new threats. Investigate blockchain technology’s potential to secure transactions and improve record traceability and permanence. 

Mains Practice Question: 

Q. Examine the most common reasons for digital arrests by law enforcement agencies. How can individuals protect themselves from becoming victims of digital arrest?

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