Cyber crimes are on the rise, but is FIA up to the task?

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The enhanced access to broadband internet seems to have also ushered in a little trouble alongside unprecedented ease and comfort. The recent briefing of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to the National Assembly’s standing committee on IT and Telecommunication informed that cybercrimes were on the rise in the country.

Briefing the committee, FIA Cyber Crime Wing Director Afzal Mehmood Butt said that the agency has received about 30 thousand complaints from citizens regarding cyber crimes of different nature during the last 30 months since the promulgation of the Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) 2016. Of these complaints, the director said, 15,433 were related to misuse of Facebook, 6,607 were related to Twitter while over 3,000 were pertinent to Whatsapp. Moreover, 4,332 complaints involved misuse of Instagram, 85 involved Gmail, 230 involved Hotmail, 55 involved Youtube and 13 each involved Snapchat and Linkedin, Mr. Afzal Mehmood Butt informed the committee as quoted by Dawn.

What seems to be more problematic than the problem itself is that the FIA was clueless about how many of these 30 thousand cases were resolved and how many were still pending.

Dawn reported that when the committee chairman, MNA Ali Khan Jadoon inquired about the number of cases the agency had addressed, the official expressed his inability to share the exact number of investigations completed because most of the cases, he said, were settled outside the court by the parties on their own.

Daily Dunya termed the upsurge in the cyber crimes rate ‘disturbing’. Shedding light on the FIA’s briefing in its editorial, the newspaper said that the increase in social media usage increased cyber crimes. It said the statistics are high despite the fact that lots of people do not lodge complaints due to various reasons. It stated that even those who manage to do so are left without redress due to slow processing and implementation. The newspaper urged the government to undertake steps to ensure swift action against the growing online crimes. It also called for removal of fake accounts and slanderous, hateful and blasphemous content from the internet.

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) was tasked to monitor and combats cyber crimes after the promulgation of the Pakistan Electronic Crime Act 2016.  As per FIA’s 2018 report, its cyber crimes wing, National Response Center for Cyber Crimes (NR3C) conducted 2,295 inquiries, registered 255 cases and made 209 arrests during the year, with most of the cases involving online harassment and blackmailing.

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