Criminal justice in India is majorly governed by three laws which are – Indian Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Code and Indian Evidence Act. The centre, on 11th August 2023’ Friday, proposes a new bill in parliament Friday, which is replacing the country’s major criminal laws, i.e. Indian Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Code and Indian Evidence Act.
The following three bills are being proposed to replace major criminal laws in the country:
- The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill, 2023 to replace Indian Penal Code 1860.
- The Bharatiya Nagrik Suraksha Sanhita Bill, 2023, to replace The Code Of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
- The Bharatiya Sakshya Bill, 2023, to replace The Indian Evidence Act 1872.
Cyber law-oriented view of the new shift in criminal lawNotable changes:Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill, 2023 Indian Penal Code 1860.
Way ahead for digitalisation
The new laws aim to enhance the utilisation of digital services in court systems, it facilitates online registration of FIR, Online filing of the charge sheet, serving summons in electronic mode, trial and proceedings in electronic mode etc. The new bills also allow the virtual appearance of witnesses, accused, experts, and victims in some instances. This shift will lead to the adoption of technology in courts and all courts to be computerised in the upcoming time.
Enhanced recognition of electronic records
With the change in lifestyle in terms of the digital sphere, significance is given to recognising electronic records as equal to paper records.
The criminal laws of the country play a significant role in establishing law & order and providing justice. The criminal laws of India were the old laws existing under British rule. There have been several amendments to criminal laws to deal with the growing crimes and new aspects. However, there was a need for well-established criminal laws which are in accordance with the present era. The step of the legislature by centralising all criminal laws in their new form and introducing three bills is a good approach which will ultimately strengthen the criminal justice system in India, and it will also facilitate the use of technology in the court system.
In the age of advanced technology, Cyber threats continue to grow, and so are the cyber hubs. A new name has been added to the cyber hub, Purnia, a city in India, is now evolving as a new and alarming menace-biometric cloning and financial crimes. This emerging cyber threat involves replicating an individual’s biometric data, such as fingerprint or facial recognition, to gain unauthorised access to their bank accounts and carry out fraudulent activities. In this blog, we will have a look at the methods employed, the impact on individuals and institutions, and the necessary steps to mitigate the risk.
Purnia, a bustling city in the state of Bihar, India, is known for its rich cultural heritage, However, underneath its bright appearance comes a hidden danger—a rising cyber threat with the potential to devastate its citizens’ financial security. Purnia has seen the growth of a dangerous trend in recent years, such as biometric cloning for financial crimes, after several FIRs were registered with Kasba and Amaur police stations. The Police came into action and started an investigation.
Modus Operandi unveiled
The modus Operandi of cyber criminals includes hacking into databases, intercepting data during transactions, or even physically obtaining fingerprints of facial images from objects or surfaces. Let’s understand how they gathered all this data and why Bihar was not targeted.
These criminals are way smart they operate in the three states. They targeted and have open access to obtain registry and agreement paperwork from official websites, albeit it is not available online in Bihar. As a result, the scam was conducted in other states rather than Bihar; further, the fraudsters were involved in downloading the fingerprints, biometrics, and Aadhaar numbers of buyers and sellers from the property registration documents of Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, and Telangana.
After Cloning fingerprints, the fraudster withdrew money after linking with Aadhaar Enabled Payment System (AEPS) from various bank accounts. The fraudsters stamped the fingerprint on rubber trace paper and utilised a polymer stamp machine and heating at a specific temperature with a chemical to make duplicate fingerprints used in unlawful financial transactions from several consumers’ bank accounts.
After the breakthrough, the police teams recovered a large number of smartphones, ATM cards, rubber stamps of fingerprints, Aadhar numbers, scanners, Stamp machines, laptops, and chemicals, and along with this, 17 people were arrested.
During the investigation, it was found that the cybercriminals employ Sophisticated money laundering techniques to obscure the illicit origins of the stolen funds. The fraudsters transfer money into various /multiple accounts or use cryptocurrency. Using these tactics makes it more challenging for authorities to trace back money and get it back.
Impact of biometric Cloning scam
The Biometric scam has far-reaching implications both for society, Individuals, and institutions. These kinds of scams cause financial losses and create emotional breakdowns, including anger, anxiety, and a sense of violation. This also broke the trust in a digital system.
It also seriously impacts institutions. Biometric cloning frauds may potentially cause severe reputational harm to financial institutions and organisations. When clients fall prey to such frauds, it erodes faith in the institution’s security procedures, potentially leading to customer loss and a tarnished reputation. Institutions may suffer legal and regulatory consequences, and they must invest money in investigating the incident, paying victims, and improving their security systems to prevent similar instances.
Empowering Purnia Residents to Protect Themselves from Biometric Fraud: Purnia must provide its inhabitants with knowledge and techniques to protect their personal information as it deals with the increasing issue of biometric fraud. Individuals may defend themselves from falling prey to these frauds by increasing awareness about biometric fraud and encouraging recommended practices. This blog will discuss the necessity of increasing awareness and present practical recommendations to help Purnia prevent biometric fraud. Here are some tips that one can follow;
- Securing personal Biometric data: It is crucial to safeguard personal biometric data. Individuals should be urged to secure their fingerprints, face scans, and other biometric information in the same way that they protect their passwords or PINs. It is critical to ensure that biometric data is safely maintained and shared with only trustworthy organisations with strong security procedures in place.
- Verifying Service providers: Residents should be vigilant while submitting biometric data to service providers, particularly those providing financial services. Before disclosing any sensitive information, it is important to undertake due diligence and establish the validity and reliability of the organisation. Checking for relevant certificates, reading reviews, and getting recommendations can assist people in making educated judgments and avoiding unscrupulous companies.
- Personal Cybersecurity: Individuals should implement robust cybersecurity practices to reduce the danger of biometric fraud. This includes using difficult and unique passwords, activating two-factor authentication, upgrading software and programs on a regular basis, and being wary of phishing efforts. Individuals should also refrain from providing personal information or biometric data via unprotected networks or through untrustworthy sources.
- Educating the Elderly and Vulnerable Groups: Special attention should be given to educating the elderly and other vulnerable groups who may be more prone to scams. Awareness campaigns may be modified to their individual requirements, emphasising the significance of digital identities, recognising possible risks, and seeking help from reliable sources when in doubt. Empowering these populations with knowledge can help keep them safe from biometric fraud.
Measures to Stay Ahead
As biometric fraud is a growing concern, staying a step ahead is essential. By following these simple steps, one can safeguard themselves.
- Multi-factor Authentication: MFA is one of the best methods for security. MFA creates multi-layer security or extra-layer security against unauthorised access. MFA incorporates a biometric scan and a password.
- Biometric Encryption: Biometric encryption securely stores and transmits biometric data. Rather than keeping raw biometric data, encryption methods transform it into mathematical templates that cannot be reverse-engineered. These templates are utilised for authentication, guaranteeing that the original biometric information is not compromised even if the encrypted data is.
- AI and Machine Learning (ML): AI and ML technologies are critical in detecting and combating biometric fraud. These systems can analyse massive volumes of data in real-time, discover trends, and detect abnormalities. Biometric systems may continually adapt and enhance accuracy by employing AI and ML algorithms, boosting their capacity to distinguish between legitimate users and fraudulent efforts.
The Biometric fraud call needs immediate attention to protect the bankers from the potential consequences. By creating awareness, we can save ourselves; additionally, by working together, we can create a safer digital environment. The use of biometric verification was inculcated to increase factor authentication for a banker. However, we see that the bad actors have already started to bypass the tech and even wreak havoc upon the netizens by draining their accounts of their hard-earned money. The banks and the cyber cells nationwide need to work together in synergy to increase awareness and safety mechanisms to prevent such cyber crimes and create effective and efficient redressal mechanisms for the citizens.
As we delve deeper into the intricate, almost esoteric digital landscape of the 21st century, we are confronted by a new and troubling phenomenon that threatens the very bastions of our personal security. This is not a mere subplot in some dystopian novel but a harsh and palatable reality firmly rooted in today's technologically driven society. We must grapple with the consequences of the alarming evolution of cyber threats, particularly the sophisticated use of artificial intelligence in creating face swaps—a technique now cleverly harnessed by nefarious actors to undermine the bedrock of biometric security systems.
What is GoldPickaxe?
It was amidst the hum of countless servers and data centers that the term 'GoldPickaxe' began to echo, sending shivers down the spines of cybersecurity experts. Originating from the intricate web spun by a group of Chinese hackers as reported in Dark Reading. GoldPickaxe represents the latest in a long lineage of digital predators. It is an astute embodiment of the disguise, blending into the digital environment as a seemingly harmless government service app. But behind its innocuous facade, it bears the intent to ensnare and deceive, with the elderly demographic being especially susceptible to its trap.
Victims, unassuming and trustful, are cajoled into revealing their most sensitive information: phone numbers, private details, and, most alarmingly, their facial data. These virtual reflections, intended to be the safeguard of one's digital persona, are snatched away and misused in a perilous transformation. The attackers harness such biometric data, feeding it into the arcane furnaces of deepfake technology, wherein AI face-swapping crafts eerily accurate and deceptive facsimiles. These digital doppelgängers become the master keys, effortlessly bypassing the sentinel eyes of facial recognition systems that lock the vaults of Southeast Asia's financial institutions.
Through the diligent and unyielding work of the research team at Group-IB, the trajectory of one victim's harrowing ordeal—a Vietnamese individual pilfered of a life-altering $40,000—sheds light on the severity of this technological betrayal. The advancements in deep face technology, once seen as a marvel of AI, now present a clear and present danger, outpacing the mechanisms meant to deter unauthorized access, and leaving the unenlightened multitude unaware and exposed.
Adding weight to the discussion, experts, a potentate in biometric technology, commented with a somber tone: 'This is why we see face swaps as a tool of choice for hackers. It gives the threat actor this incredible level of power and control.' This chilling testament to the potency of digital fraudulence further emphasizes that even seemingly impregnable ecosystems, such as that of Apple’s, are not beyond the reach of these relentless invaders.
Emerging from this landscape is the doppelgänger of GoldPickaxe specifically tailored for the iOS landscape—GoldDigger's mutation into GoldPickaxe for Apple's hallowed platform is nothing short of a wake-up call. It engenders not just a single threat but an evolving suite of menaces, including its uncanny offspring, 'GoldDiggerPlus,' which is wielding the terrifying power to piggyback on real-time communications of the affected devices. Continuously refined and updated, these threats become chimeras, each iteration more elusive, more formidable than its predecessor.
One ingenious and insidious tactic exploited by these cyber adversaries is the diversionary use of Apple's TestFlight, a trusted beta testing platform, as a trojan horse for their malware. Upon clampdown by Apple, the hackers, exhibiting an unsettling level of adaptability, inveigle users to endorse MDM profiles, hitherto reserved for corporate device management, thereby chaining these unknowing participants to their will.
How To Protect
Against this stark backdrop, the question of how one might armor oneself against such predation looms large. It is a question with no simple answer, demanding vigilance and proactive measures.
General Vigilance : Aware of the Trojan's advance, Apple is striving to devise countermeasures, yet individuals can take concrete steps to safeguard their digital lives.
Consider Lockdown Mode: It is imperative to exhibit discernment with TestFlight installations, to warily examine MDM profiles, and seriously consider embracing the protective embrace of Lockdown Mode. Activating Lockdown Mode on an iPhone is akin to drawing the portcullis and manning the battlements of one's digital stronghold. The process is straightforward: a journey to the settings menu, a descent into privacy and security, and finally, the sanctification of Lockdown Mode, followed by a device restart. It is a curtailment of convenience, yes, but a potent defense against the malevolence lurking in the unseen digital thicket.
As 'GoldPickaxe' insidiously carves its path into the iOS realm—a rare and unsettling occurrence—it flags the possible twilight of the iPhone's vaunted reputation for tight security. Should these shadow operators set their sights beyond Southeast Asia, angling their digital scalpels towards the U.S., Canada, and other English-speaking enclaves, the consequences could be dire.
Thus, it is imperative that as digital citizens, we fortify ourselves with best practices in cybersecurity. Our journey through cyberspace must be cautious, our digital trails deliberate and sparse. Let the specter of iPhone malware serve as a compelling reason to arm ourselves with knowledge and prudence, the twin guardians that will let us navigate the murky waters of the internet with assurance, outwitting those who weave webs of deceit. In heeding these words, we preserve not only our financial assets but the sanctity of our digital identities against the underhanded schemes of those who would see them usurped.
In the rapidly evolving landscape of cyber threats, a novel menace has surfaced the concept of Digital Arrest. The impostors impersonating law enforcement officers deceive the victims into believing that their bank account, SIM card, Aadhaar card, or bank card has been used unlawfully. They coerce victims into paying them money. Digital Arrest involves the virtual restraint of individuals. These suspensions can vary from restricted access to the account(s), and digital platforms, to implementing measures to prevent further digital activities or being restrained on video calling or being monitored through video calling. In the era of digitisation where the technology is growing on an exponential phase, various existing loopholes are being utilised by the wrongdoers which has given rise to this sinister trend known as “digital arrest fraud”. In this scam, the defrauder manipulates the victims, who impersonate law enforcement officials and further traps the victims into a web of deception involving threats of imminent digital restraint and coerced financial transactions.
Recognizing the Danger of Digital Arrest
A recent case involving an interactive voice response (IVR) call that targeted a victim sheds light on the complexities of the "digital arrest" cybercrime. The victim was notified by the scammers—who were pretending to be law enforcement officers—that a SIM card in her name had apparently been utilised in a criminal incident in Mumbai. The call proceeded to a video conversation with an FBI agent who falsely accused her of being involved in money laundering. The victim was forced into a web of dishonesty because she now believed she was involved in a criminal case, underscoring the psychological manipulation these hackers were using.
Recent incidents of digital arrest fraud
- Recently, a complaint was registered at the Noida Cyber Crime Police Station made by a 50-year-old victim, who was deceived of over Rs 11 lakh and exposed to "digital arrest". By using the identities of an IPS officer in the CBI and the founder of an airline that was grounded, the attackers, masquerading as law enforcement officers, falsely accused the victim of being involved in a fake money-laundering case. She was told that she had another SIM card in her name that was used for fraudulent activities in Mumbai. The complaint made by the victim asserted “Victim’s call was transferred to a person (who identified himself as a Mumbai Police officer) who conducted the initial interrogation over the call and then on Skype VC, where she stayed from 9:30 AM to around 7 in the evening. The woman ended up transferring around ₹11.11 lakh. The scammers then ended contact with her, after which she realised she had been scammed.
- Another recent case of digital arrest fraud came from Faridabad. Where a 23-year-old girl got a call from a fraudster posing as a Lucknow customs officer. The caller said that a package was being shipped to Cambodia that included cards and passports associated with the victim's Aadhaar number. The victim was forced to believe that she was a part of illegal activity, which included trafficking in humans. Under the guise of police officials, the hackers made up allegations before extorting money from the victim. After that, she was told by a man acting as a CBI official that she needed to pay five per cent of the total which was Rs 15 lakh. She said the cybercriminals instructed her not to log off Skype. In the meantime, she ended up transferring Rs 2.5 lakh to a bank account shared by cybercriminals.
Measures to protect oneself from digital arrest
Sustaining a practical and observant approach towards cybersecurity is the key to lowering the peril of being targeted and experiencing digital arrest. Following are certain best practices for ensuring the same:
- Cyber Hygiene: This includes maintaining cyber hygiene by regularly updating passwords, and software and also enabling two-factor authentications to reduce the chances of unauthorized access.
- Phishing Attempts: These can be evaded by refraining from clicking on dubious links or downloading attachments from unknown sources and also authenticating the legitimacy of emails and messages before sharing any personal information.
- Secured devices: By installing reputable antivirus and anti-malware solutions and keeping operating systems and applications up to date with the latest security protocols.
- Virtual Private Networks (VPNs): VPNs can be employed to encrypt internet connections thus enhancing privacy and security. However one must be cautious of free VPN services and OTP only for trustworthy providers.
- Monitor online services: A regular review of online accounts for any unauthorized or unlawful activities and setting up alerts for any changes to account settings or login attempts may help in the early detection of cybercrime and coping with it.
- Secure communication channels: Using secure communication techniques such as encryption can be done for the protection of sensitive information. Sharing of passwords and other information must be cautiously done especially in public forums.
- Awareness: The increasing prevalence of cybercrime known as "digital arrest" underscores the need for preventive measures and increased public awareness. Educational initiatives that draw attention to prevalent cyber threats—especially those that include law enforcement impersonation—can enable people to identify and fend off scams of this kind. The collaboration of law enforcement agencies and telecommunication companies can effectively limit the access points used by fraudsters by identifying and blocking susceptible calls.
The rise of Digital Arrest presents a noteworthy and innovative threat to cybersecurity by taking advantage of people's weaknesses through deceitful impersonation and coercive measures. The case in Noida is a prime example of the boldness and skill of cybercriminals who use fear and false information to trick victims into thinking they are in danger of suffering harsh legal repercussions and taking large amounts of money. In order to combat this increasing cybercrime, people need to take a proactive and watchful stance when it comes to cybersecurity. Cyber hygiene techniques, such as two-factor authentication and frequent password changes, are essential for lowering the possibility of unwanted access. Important precautions include being aware of phishing efforts, protecting devices with reliable antivirus software, and using Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to increase privacy. Cybercriminals and fraudsters often use fear as a powerful tool to manipulate people and exploit their vulnerabilities for illicit gains in the realms of cybercrime and financial fraud. To protect themselves against the sneaky threat of Digital Arrest, netizens must traverse the constantly changing cyber threat landscape with collective knowledge, educated practices, and strong cybersecurity measures.