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In conversation with Dr.Debarati Halder: Cyber crime and dealing with victim blaming

In light of the privacy debate, we at Hidden Pockets have been in conversation with Dr. Debarati Halder to understand the vulnerabilities and issues of safety in the cyber space, a world with blurry boundaries with respect to privacy.  In the first part of our three part interview with Dr. Debarati Halder, she discussed about personal data leaks on social media, what goes into resolving these issues and more. In the second part of this interview, Halder spoke about the most reported cyber crimes, cyber crimes that aren’t recognised by Indian laws, legal recourse for crimes like revenge pornography or cyber stalking, policy changes, among others. In the third and final part of this interview, she speaks about cyber forensic, police training that is given, avoiding victim blaming, among others.

Cyber forensic:

What is included in cyber forensic?

When you get some evidence, to handle these evidences you need to have specific training, especially with respect to cyber crime. How to collect digital evidences especially with hardware and software? The training that you need to have to handle this is called cyber forensics. Cyber forensics tells officers how to handle digital data especially for tracking and criminal law purposes. Some universities are also offering a course on cyber forensic.

How do you say cyber forensic comes into the picture for a crime?

When you are tracking the evidences, you need to know about cyber forensics. In many cases, be it hacking or creation of fake profiles by morphing, the police officer may include some habitual hackers (to the their list of suspects). If the police officer does not know about cyber forensics or cyber law, it will then go to some middle man who will enjoy his own position but may not give full information to the police. If cyber forensics is improved, I think it will definitely help the police officers and also the victim.

Training given to police

What is the training given to police in cyber forensic?

There are two types of training. One is at the grass root level. When a person is already in the service, it will be like a refresher course. They are called back to the Police Academy and experts are called in for the training on how to deal with online offences and work with the evidences. The other is advanced training. Cyber security or forensic experts or even senior police officers do this. This is usually with regard to how to manage the chain of evidences, how to track them, which are the software etc. These are police documents that are not usually shared with the public. This is confidential and told to only those who are taking training. These are the kinds of training that are given. Apart from this, police officers are repeatedly told about the laws, the trends including the new kinds of crimes and the training manual includes the laws that should be kept in mind while registering FIRs.

How does the transfer of trained officers affect the situation?

It definitely has an effect because you can’t expect all police officers to come with computer science background. I have been travelling all over the world. This is not a problem only in India. Whenever a new officer comes in, a new set of training needs to be given. The person should be remolded to look at certain kind of crime so there’s definitely a lack in the engagement.

Why would you say police officers don’t understand when women go to police station to file a complaint? Why would you say that happens?

Number one, it is because of the lack of understanding of the nature of the crime. Number two will be the lack of training. Sufficient training may not be given to these police officers. I have given some training as well. In my experience, I have seen that there is a lack of understanding from the police officers to understand or to know the present sorts of crimes happening.

Why do you think that happens in spite of the training?

They are trained. They are definitely trained but what happens is that they are given training only for certain offences. I wouldn’t say that it always happens. For example they are trained only to find out how hacking happens. Cyber forensic may be focused to find out from which IP address this particular content is coming but they are not trained to counsel the victim. So that may be the reason that the police officers do not generally cooperate with the victim.

What do you think needs to change about handling these cases?

There should be some focused laws. There should be proper training. Though police officers are trained, a better training mechanism should be brought in. These are two things that I would suggest. Bringing service providers under the Indian law is the one thing that is lacking here. Many training police academies and trainers are lacking in this particular aspect. And that’s why these websites refuse to give any data. How to make them give that data as per the Indian laws because our laws have extra-territorial jurisdiction? Many officers aren’t aware of this and do not exercise this. The victims also need to carefully see the policy guidelines and warning messages. Certain do’s and don’t’s have to be followed.

It appears that the victims face challenges on two levels; one with respect to handling the social media platform and the other being the police. What do you think needs to change with respect to handling the police to improve the situation for the victims?

Again I would say it is training. Also, the police officers handling the case should be empathetic. There are laws and there are experts coming to the academies and training the police but the human aspect is forgotten. The therapeutic effect of the law can be executed only by the police officers and not by anybody else. If a victim is having a particular problem, instead of blaming the victim or saying that you don’t understand what this is, the police counsel the victim. With respect to handling social media, I have seen that social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have some good network with the ministry. This can be used properly. The problems then can be solved to a certain extent.

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