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Technology moving faster than the law: cybercrime expert

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Technology is moving “much faster” than the law, making it   necessary to understand why cybercrime happens and who are the people behind it, says a global expert, warning that everyone is at risk of becoming a target.

According to Dr Vasileios Karagiannopoulos, Senior Lecturer of Law and Cybercrime at the University of Portsmouth, it has become important for people to know how to protect themselves from cybercrime, particularly in light of the recent Cambridge Analytica controversy.

His comment comes amid growing concern about online privacy in India, after Facebook recently admitted that data of over 5.6 lakh Indian users was harvested by an app that shared its records with UK-based analytics and consulting company Cambridge Analytica.

“We have developed quite a few laws, but technology has a way of bypassing law. So the pattern has been to constantly to bring new laws to regulate technology, instead of regulating behaviour,” Karagiannopoulos told PTI.

“This is what makes it necessary for students to understand why cybercrime happens, and who are the people behind cybercrime,” he said.

Hoping to equip the new generation with the skills to fight the global rise of cybercrime, Karagiannopoulos has launched a new graduate level course in Criminology and Cybercrime at the University of Portsmouth.

“Both the young and the older generation, along with small organisations and businesses, don’t really know how to protect themselves. But everyone is at risk of being targets of cybercrime,” said Karagiannopoulos.

His concerns were shared by another expert, Sandeep Mittal, joint secretary of Parliament Security, who cautioned that constantly sharing travel plans, locations and photos of our homes on platforms like Facebook makes us easy targets for criminals.

“We are our own enemies when it comes to social media,” Mittal said at a panel discussion  on ‘Human and Social Dimensions of Cybersecurity here last week.

He added that it was important for people to know how to keep their private family lives separate from their professional lives.

“Is there need to ‘check-in’ every time we go to the airport?” he asked, referring to a popular feature on Facebook that allows users to easily share their current location.

The internet, he added, is being used to commit serious crimes like drug trafficking.

The discussion was followed by the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the University of Portsmouth in the UK and the Raksha Shakti University in Gujarat.

The MoU aims to exchange knowledge on how India and the UK are dealing with cybercrime.

These include the lack of admissibility of digital evidence in courts, the sale of cheap, unregulated off-the-shelf products that could have malicious codes, as well as low reporting of such crimes due to the lack of confidence of the general public in the police force.

The anonymity and the sheer reach of internet across the world makes it difficult for law enforcers to nab the criminals, the experts said.

The MoU between the two universities will support aspiring students from both institutions in placement opportunities along with student and faculty exchange programmes.

The collaboration will include the development of joint academic programmes, student exchanges, conferences, seminars and workshops.

“We want to encourage academics from India and our country to work collaboratively. It would benefit our researchers as well as Indian institutes to understand how the other side works,” said Chris Chang, Pro Vice Chancellor of University of Portsmouth.

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