Md. Mamonor Rashid
As the use of technology grows and grows, so does cyber security. Cyber security is inextricably linked with the development of information technology. In today’s world cyber security has become a global issue. Realizing the importance of cyber security, all developed countries are taking steps to solve the problem. However, developing countries like Bangladesh are still far from guaranteeing this right. Information security cannot be ensured with technology alone. It is important to take steps to address the network threat and to create a secure information society by taking comprehensive measures.
For decades, governments have increased their cybersecurity budgets for national defence, but not invested enough to teach citizens adequate cyber-skills despite our growing reliance on the internet and the situation has become even more pressing during the ongoing pandemic of COVID 19. Millions of people globally now depend on technology for work, school, health, and basic services.
This stance has contributed to cyberattacks becoming one of the fastest growing crimes, costing an estimated $700 billion globally in 2021. In Bangladesh, there have also been recent incidents of ATM fraud, credit card fraud or hacking of IT firewalls in several commercial banks across the country. In particular, we have not yet been able to fully recover from the shock of the 2016 Bangladesh Bank reserve theft.
Policymakers, including technologists, are constantly worried about technology-related security issues. Experts are working on the risks and weaknesses of different types of information technology. In this case, they are associated with members of the law enforcement agencies. In Bangladesh, which is in the stream of digitalization, several government and non-government organizations have also been formed. Notable among these are government agencies BGD e-GOV CIRT, Cyber Support Center of Bangladesh Police, Cyber Crime Investigation Division etc.
The number of internet users is increasing in the country along the path of digitalization. According to the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC), the number of Internet users in the country in November 2021 was 126 million; the number of Facebook users in Bangladesh is 46 million. In addition, there are about 2 million users on Instagram. Overall, Bangladesh’s cyber footprint is quite large.
With the increase in internet usage in the country, cyber crime has also increased. Based on the numerous reliable sources, several types of cyber crimes are organized in Bangladesh at individual level. These include hacking into mobile financing services or MFS (development, cash, etc.) passwords or PINs, hacking social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram, etc.), posting fake Facebook accounts or pages, spreading personal photos or videos, and promoting pornography, Cyber bullying etc. In a nutshell, cyber crime is on the rise in Bangladesh using social media. We have seen a number of major catastrophes in recent times due to propaganda through social media.
A study carried out by the Cyber Crime Awareness Foundation, a non-governmental research organization, cyber crime has increased significantly by June 2021 compared to 2019. In particular, hacking of online accounts (Facebook, Instagram, email, etc.) has increased by about 63 percent, which is 26 percent of the total cyber crime victims. Besides, 11.07 percent of the victims have been cheated while shopping online. Experts fear that the number could rise further if e-commerce scandals are not addressed in recent times.
Cyber criminals are targeting honorable people of the society starting from women and children. Sociologists and psychologists say cybercrime needs to be brought under control quickly. Bangladesh has not yet reached a point where cyber crime can be reduced with awareness.
Bangladesh has had a very strict law called Information and Communication Technology Act (ICT Act) since 2006. The law was amended in 2013 to make it stricter but austere enforcement of the said law is utterly far away to control this crime.
Even then, the government feels that more legislation is needed to ensure cyber security, curb cybercrime, and prosecute cybercriminals. Therefore, a new law called Cyber Security Act 2015 has been drafted. The draft law has been published on the website of the government’s information and communication department and everyone’s opinion has been invited on it.
But before that, it needs to be examined whether the existing ICT law is sufficient to curb cyber crime. Despite the existence of this law, when the government has taken the initiative to draft another new law, it is natural to assume that the government does not consider the ICT law to be sufficient. But why that is not enough, what kind of crimes cannot be tried by this law, and whether it has become necessary to make a whole new law to try them — these things need to be considered.
There is no alternative to legislation to curb crime through the misuse of cyber technology. But if the law is so strict, then there is a risk of undermining democratic rights, including freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and the right to privacy of citizens. In the age of information technology and the free flow of information, the need for enactment of new laws cannot be overstated, but the goal of any legislation should be to protect the rights of the people and not to hand over repressive tools to those in power.
Needless to say that ICT law is a detailed law that can be used to remedy almost all types of internet related crimes. Likewise, if the ICT Act had been amended and updated, there would have been no need for another new law for cyber security. Therefore, precise application of the said law is utterly vital to control this crime.