Cyber Crime in Pune: Unsecured Digital India dangerous

Padma awardee Sanjay Dhande, who lost Rs 19 lakh to cyber fraudsters, says loopholes in system denying him justice.

Written by Chandan Haygunde , Sushant Kulkarni | Pune | Published: July 7, 2015 2:40 am
cyber crime, pune cyber crime, pune police, RTI, Pune cyber crime RTI, Bank of Maharashtra, pune news, city news, locla news, pune newsline, Indian Express Sanjay Dhande.

It’s a double whammy for victim cyber crimes. Firstly, investigators have failed to nab the prime culprits. Secondly, the “flaws” in the legal system have apparently delayed and denied justice to victims. The case of Sanjay Govind Dhande, a resident of Pune, who lost Rs 19 lakh to cyber fraudsters, is a case in example.

A noted educationist and former director of the prestigious IIT Kanpur, Dhande was honoured with Padmashri in 2013. The same year, he lost a major part of his “life savings” to cyber criminals.

The case

Cyber criminals hacked Dhande’s account in ICICI’s Aundh branch in Pune in September 2013 and withdrew Rs 19 lakh from it through multiple illegal online transactions. They managed to block his mobile phone SIM card of Vodafone. Due to it, Dhande did not get any alerts from the bank regarding these transactions. Dhande got to know about it only after he got a call from the bank that his balance had gone below the lowest limit. Dhande then filed a complaint with the ICICI bank and also with the Chauhrshrungi police station.

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Probe revealed that Dhande’s money was transferred to 11 bank accounts in Mumbai, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. The money was withdrawn soon after it got transferred. After probe, police arrested three of these account holders from Mumbai. Fraudsters had paid them Rs 3,000 each for using their bank accounts. Account-holders from other places were not arrested. Probe also revealed the fraudsters has obtained a duplicate SIM card of Dhande’s contact number in Nagpur. Those involved in SIM card swapping have not being traced as yet.

Legal process stuck
Dhande filed a complaint with the office of adjudicating officer, information technology (IT) department of state government, demanding compensation from ICICI bank and Vodafone. In January 2014, IT secretary Rajesh Agarwal, who was the judge for special court of IT department, ordered Vodafone to pay Rs 12 lakh and ICICI to pay Rs 6 lakh to Dhande as compensation. “The court considered there were lapses by Vodafone and ICICI and ordered compensation. But both Vodafone and ICICI moved Cyber Appellate Tribunal in Delhi against this order. Vodafone gave me Rs 12 lakh, but it came with a letter saying I could not use the money. So I have kept it in fixed deposit. ICICI authorities were about to pay the compensation, but they simple backed off. The bank moved Bombay High Court in this case. The HC will not start the trial till the Cyber Appellate Tribunal in Delhi passes any order. However, for the last few years, no chairman has been appointed at the tribunal. So no appeals are heard and no orders are being passed. I keep getting new dates. It is like ‘tareekh pe tareekh’ (date after date)… The recent date was on June 26. Nothing happened on the day… So technically I have recovered nothing that I lost. Besides, I have spent nearly Rs 4 lakh more towards legal expenses,” said Dhande.

‘Insurance of money of account holders needed’
Dhande said police did a fine job, particularly inspector Sanjay Tungar of cyber crime cell, but they arrested persons only at the tertiary level. “Culprits at the secondary and primary levels in this chain are at large. So my money was not recovered,” said Dhande.“There should be a provision for insurance of bank account holders. The account holder can pay some amount as premium. Victims can then claim financial losses in cyber attacks. Banks should also strengthen their IT cells. Banks report to the RBI, where as telecom companies report to the telecom ministry. There is no co-ordination between the RBI and the telecom ministry. We need an interface between these two authorities… It is important for cyber security. Unsecured Digital India is dangerous,” Dhande said.

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  1. Neeraj Aarora
    Jul 8, 2015 at 12:42 pm
    The most significant issue is how the hacker came into possession of the account of account holder. Without the pword, the account cannot be hacked or accessed and funds cannot be transferred. The facts reveals that the server of the ICICI Bank have not been hacked because if it was the case, the hacker need not deactivate the mobile number of the account holder and they would have simply change the mobile number in the server. The only other ways to hack the pword of the account holder is the compromise of the computer system of the account holder from where the account have been accessed by the account holder or by sending the phishing email prompting the account holder to divulge the account details and pword. Further, the connectivity provided to the account holder is through SSL and as such there is no probability of interception of the pword or data while in transit. Thus, the theft of the pword would only due to the negligence or unintentional conduct of the account holder. Thus, there is an need to educate the account holder regarding the threats of phishing or compromising the personal information otherwise, such crime would continue and nobody can control them. Merely, putting the burden on the bank would not come to any rescue. The need is to train the police so that prompt action can be taken and digital evidence could be preserved to prosecute the accused persons. - Neeraj Aarora