BENGALURU: Police officers across the country are being trained to specifically tackle the proliferation of pornographic content on messaging apps, which is now among the most prevalent of cybercrimes, according to a top police official.
As criminals use online messaging apps that are encrypted, Indian police authorities have found it challenging to nab these perpetrators and are now seeking help from cybersecurity experts and resorting to formal training to crackdown on the growing menace, police officials told ET.
“(The police) is being regularly trained to tackle such cases. From tracing down the administrator through their registered mobile numbers to acquiring virtual numbers to make calls, officials are coached in all possible ways,” said MA Saleem, an additional director general of Police (Crime and Technical Wing), Karnataka. These sessions are usually held twice or thrice in a month for an hour, he said.
Revenge porn, child-porn, non-consensual sharing of intimate sexual images by former partners, that are being circulated across groups as pornographic content proliferates through messaging apps. These services are usually shared one-on-one or distributed through a broadcast list making it difficult to trace. Some of the content is also generated by users who record their own videos to make a quick buck by selling the clips online, say the police officials.
These cops add that such child abuse and pornographic cases are being largely reported from the rural areas. Talking to ETon the condition of anonymity, ethical hackers who assist the police said that the lack of technology understanding among police officials is one of the primary hurdles when it comes to cracking these cases.
Secondly, while apps such as the Facebookowned WhatsApp support law enforcement bodies, technical limitations like Virtual Private Network (VPN) connections, that cover up actual numbers and fake IMEI mobile numbers, make it difficult to track the origin of a message which then spreads across groups. In a statement, a WhatsApp spokesperson said: “We deploy our most advanced technology, including artificial intelligence to scan profile photos.
We also respond to law enforcement requests in India and around the world.” It said it reports account information to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children for their future coordination with law enforcement. In the last 10 days, WhatsApp claims to have banned approximately 1,30,000 accounts, globally. Last month, WhatsApp also asked the Google Play store to remove all known group link sharing apps.
Police officials say due to these apps being fully encrypted, administrators of WhatsApp groups only let the members view the content, thereby prohibiting anyone from participating or raising objections. So if a case is reported, the cops first need to gather all the evidence through screenshots or acquire SIM cards through which they join these groups.