“If Dawood Ibrahim would have requested my presence, I would say no emphatically, but not to Mr. Ramesh Narayan. So I’m here,” said D. Sivanandhan, DGP (Retd.), before the audience burst out laughing. And with that opening line, the kind words used to introduce D. Sivanandhan’s as an engaging speaker rang true.
As you’ll soon realise, this Tuesday speaker often left us with no choice but to laugh, even when some of his revelations about the world of cybercrime demanded a serious reckoning. Take for example: “We’ve all seen that movie: Van Damme says home, and the car takes him home, but I’ve come to tell you that there is a possibility that the car won’t take you home. Instead, you’ll be taken to a jungle, where you will be looted.”
His motive was to warn rotarians about the danger lurking at every bend in the cyber world, but not without a hint of satire. Like when he highlighted the misuse of 3D printing: “You are all business tycoons, and always want proof of concept, so here is a photograph of the 3D printed gun used by a guy to shoot two hundred rounds.”
In a similar manner, he drew our attention to an incident that occurred next door to us: “Somebody in Lower Parel had ordered pizza on the tenth floor, but when it got delivered with the help of a drone, they denied having placed the order because they feared if a pizza can come attached to a drone, so can RDX.” The audience was in splits.
Those who were of the opinion that self-driven cars, unmanned flying objects (drones), and 3D printers were invented for a good cause, aren’t entirely mistaken, but must be aware that the functionalities of these innovations can easily be manipulated. Cybercrime is the name given to such manipulation, but its definition varies according to the crime. Data theft is a variant of cybercrime that “has replaced the mafia crimes that were rampant before 2000.” Realising this, at the turn of the century, the speaker had begun convincing the Indian government to establish a cybercrime branch: “Extortion used to be a major problem, but now, criminals have stopped taking away anybody’s wife or child because a person’s data has become more valuable – and no one wants to pay to get [their families] back anymore.”
The increased importance given to a person’s data is an outcome of digitisation, which is why “cybercrime is the biggest risk to corporates today.” Data can be used to create fake bank accounts, get credit card details, get loans, or worse “change medical records, to declare that a person is dead.” D. Sivanandhan further revealed that Jharkhand is the hub for cyber extortions in India, and there is proof that China, Iran, and Pakistan, provide immunity to cyber criminals who target our country.
Earlier this year, USA faced the biggest breach of information in human history, when Equifax, a credit reporting agency, was hacked. 143 million records, including social security numbers, credit card numbers, driver’s license numbers, and names were breached.
The circumstance is such that even the government does not have a proper answer to retort with when a situation does arise. “UP was plunged into darkness for three days because the power grid had been hacked, but the government quietly blamed the people for over consumption of electricity.”
Sensing the general alarm among his audience on revealing these facts, D. Sivanandhan quickly resorted to comic relief. “Isn’t it better to shut our businesses and join hands with the hackers?” Not half a bad idea, considering the solution he had to offer to victims of cybercrime: “There is no solution; all that you can do is be aware.”