The number of cybercrimes in Bangladesh is increasing day by day despite the laws regulating cyber security being framed by the government. A study conducted by a UK based body Comparitech ranked Bangladesh sixth among sixty countries for the worst cyber security in the world. According to a research, 73 per cent of Facebook users in Bangladesh are aged between 13 and 25. This indicates youths are at the forefront in social media adoption. This means with the ever so rapid advancement of cyber technology, Generation Z is the slice of population who is the most susceptible to cybercrimes.
The Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Division of Bangladesh government has prioritised three national areas for the development of cyber security in 2018: legal measures, technical and procedural measures, and organisational structures, with a total of eleven actions to combat cyber criminals. However, the most shocking fact is that the conviction rate of cybercrime is only 3.0 per cent with completion of prosecution in just 15 out of 495 cases. So what exactly is preventing the courts from fully declaring the perpetrators guilty?
Barrister Ahnaf Chowdhury, an associate at the District and Session Court in Dhaka, mentioned, "Even taking into account the latest law, namely the Digital Security Act 2018, the current legal framework on cyber security places greater emphasis on specific types of crimes - spreading misinformation, defamation and malicious attacks on computer systems to take a few examples. What is really lacking is a clear and easily implementable and enforceable mechanism for protection of personal data / privacy of citizens."
This statement is bolstered by other legal experts who claim the majority of the accused are discharged before the decision of actual hearing due to out of court settlements, deficiency of adept lawyers, and lack of experience of law enforcement in dealing with cybercrime cases.
The youths of this country, especially those constituting the female gender, are the ones suffering the most from the existent loopholes in the legislation. The typical form of harassment these girls encounter is blackmailing with their compromising pictures. It is truly devastating to see how numerous girls give in to the demands of their blackmailers every day until they are left alone with eternal psychological impairment.
In the ICT Act, enacted by the government of Bangladesh, a person guilty of cyber crime must be administered with a punishment of fourteen years and a minimum of seven years. This step has been implemented to reduce the number of digital crimes, however, the victims still encounter several hurdles on the way towards justice. In fact, a large fraction of the sufferers do not even bother to file their cases in fear of being in the limelight, shadowed by inevitable social ostracisation.
"To yield the optimal benefits of enacting a revolutionary legislation (such as the DSA), the physical technological security infrastructure, technological know-how and SOPs for government authorities, private institutions and relevant stakeholders need to be rolled out simultaneously in a harmonious way with the law. A gap or asymmetry between the letter of the law and the processes in place frustrates the purpose of introducing such a new law to a great extent," Barrister Ahnaf Chowdhury further added, pointing out the inherent flaw in the entire process of handling such crimes.
Cybercrime is a serious issue that needs urgent attention in Bangladesh because the young victims not only suffer mentally but also face perpetual neglect and bullying even after several years of the incident. Barrister Ishrat Ahmed, advocate of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh and lead counsel at Unilever Bangladesh Limited, provided a few plausible steps to address the offence. "The laws and regulations against cyber crime need to be stronger, more in the terms of implementation. We need stronger awareness, implementation and regulations to guide the authorities," she said.
Another crucial action can be providing rigorous training to the lawyers about how to fight cybercrime cases in the court.
Moving forward to the business context, Barrister Ishrat Ahmed further stated, "The provisions regarding security of personal information of individuals was a much needed step. However, in the context of growing digitalisation of marketing activities and targeted marketing, it has become imperative for us to have further guidelines and regulations to safeguard the use of personal information of the public. Neighbouring countries like India and Pakistan have passed a bill in this regard."
Barrister Ahnaf Chowdhury mentioned, "Unfortunately, the technology involved is evolving fast, but the law is yet to catch up. This is likely to compound the challenges to be faced in future in providing adequate cyber security/protection to all stakeholders."
It is high time that cyber security is taken even more seriously since it not only has the potential of destroying a person's mental health but also has the power of sabotaging the economy of Bangladesh.
The writer is studying BBA at IBA, University of Dhaka. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org