Data from the NCRB indicates that around 1.28 lakhs cybercrimes reported during 2002-2021 have ‘fraud’ as the motive. This accounts for nearly 52% of the total cybercrimes reported during this period. Most of the cybercrimes reported under both the IPC & the IT Act were reported in the recent years.
Cybercrimes refer to illegal activities committed in cyberspace targeting individuals, computer systems, networks, etc. either for some gain or to cause disruptions. Ever-evolving technology and increasing use of information technology and gadgets mean that there are greater avenues that are exposed to potential risks related to cybercrimes.
In the first story of this series of Cybercrimes, we highlighted that there is an increase in the number of cybercrimes reported in India in recent years. We have also analyzed that a majority of reported cybercrimes are concentrated in certain states & cities. Further analysis of the motives of cybercrimes and the type of cybercrimes would provide more insights into the nature of these crimes.
As was the case in the earlier story, the data for the analysis if taken from datasets on cybercrimes available on Dataful, which was compiled from the data on cybercrimes provided in the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB)’s annual Crime in India (CII) report.
Nearly 52% of the cybercrimes reported between 2002-2021 have ‘fraud’ as the motive
Around 1.28 lakh cybercrimes reported during 2002-2021 have ‘fraud’ as the motive. This accounts for nearly 52% of the total cybercrimes reported during this period. The type of fraud is not provided in the NCRB reports. For the period 2002-2015, the motive was listed as ‘Fraud/Illegal Claim’. In 2016, it was mentioned as ‘Illegal gain’ and since 2017, the motive is listed as ‘Fraud’.
There has been an increase in the number of crimes reported with motive as ‘fraud’ in the more recent years. In fact, 70% of the crimes reported with ‘fraud’ as a motive were in the three most recent years i.e., 2019-2021. Karnataka, followed by Telangana and Uttar Pradesh have recorded the highest number of cybercrimes with ‘fraud’ as the motive. In terms of the rate of crimes, Karnataka and Telangana rank higher for the crimes with ‘fraud’ as the motive.
The NCRB reports list around 1/5th of the cybercrimes with the motive as an anonymous ‘others’, making it difficult to understand the motive of crimes for around 20% of the cybercrimes. Around 15 thousand cybercrimes i.e., around 6% have reported ‘sexual exploitation’ as the motive behind the crime. ‘Extortion’, ‘Causing Disrepute’, and ‘Personal Revenge’ are the other motives behind the reported cybercrimes.
Most of the crimes reported under IPC & IT Act are in the recent years
Cybercrimes are reported under various sections of IPC, the IT Act, and under various SLLs. The majority of the cybercrimes reported during 2002-2021, as per the data provided by NCRB, are under the IT Act. More than 1.41 lakh cybercrimes were reported under the IT Act during 2002-2021. Data is not provided for the years 2014 & 2015 for the cybercrimes reported under the IT Act.
Around 85.7 thousand crimes were reported under various sections of IPC related to cybercrimes during the same period. Even in the case of IPC, data is not provided by NCRB for the years 2014 & 15. NCRB’s CII report started providing the various cybercrimes reported under SLLs in 2016. During the six-year period of 2016 -2021, 918 crimes were reported under various SLLs.
A major share of the cybercrimes reported under both the IT Act as well as IPC have been in recent years. Out of the 1.41 lakh crimes reported under IT Act, 1.19 lakh crimes were reported during the 5-year period of 2017 to 2021. In fact, during the latest three years i.e., 2019-2021, nearly 62% i.e., around 87.9 lakh cybercrimes were reported under IT Act.
In the case of IPC, around 86% of the crimes were reported during 2017 and 2021. In the last three years alone, around 59% of the cybercrimes under IPC have been reported.
Awareness about what constitutes a cybercrime, increased awareness about reporting crimes, and a better mechanism to identify and report cybercrimes by the law enforcement authorities could be the reasons for this increase in recent years both under the IT Act and IPC. While there is an overall increase in the crimes reported, there are certain specific types of cybercrimes that have contributed to this increase, which is discussed below.
Furthermore, there are variations by geography, which will be analysed in the next story.
Fraud and Cheating are the major cybercrimes under IPC
As indicated above, fraud was the major motive for cybercrimes reported by the NCRB. This is reflected in the crime type reported under IPC.
- ‘Frauds’ which fall under sections 420 (along with 465, 468 & 471) are the major crime type reported with around 37.5 thousand crimes between 2002 & 2021. ‘Criminal Breach of Trust’, which is categorised along with fraud in a few of the years also has around 2.83 thousand crimes reported.
- Around 20.5 thousand crimes are reported under ‘Cheating’, which also falls under Section 420. Overall, cybercrimes that are related to Section 420 of the IPC constitute the major portion of the crimes reported.
- Around 4.6 thousand crimes are reported under ‘Forgery’. This is the crime type under IPC with the most reported cases that are not related to Section 420.
- Another 4.1 thousand crimes are recorded under ‘Cyber Stalking’ which comes under Section 354D
- Cyber Blackmailing, Fake News, Data Theft, and Fake Profile are other Non-Section 420 crimes are other major crime types.
- On the other hand, indecent representation of women, abetment of suicide online, and destruction of electronic evidence have comparatively fewer crimes reported.
As is the general trend with other IPC crimes, crimes like fraud & cheating where the aggrieved parties are more likely to report, have higher crime numbers while crimes like indecent representation of women are comparatively reported less. There is an increase in the cases recorded under ‘Cyber Stalking’ which could imply an increased awareness to report the crime.
Under the IT Act, most crimes are categorised under Section 66: Computer related offences
The Information Technology Act (IT Act) was passed in the year 2000 and amended in 2008. Furthermore, certain amendments were promogulated by the Union government in 2023. It is the primary law in India for matters related to cybercrime and e-commerce.
Under the various sections in the IT Act, the highest number of crimes are reported under Section 66, which deals with ‘Computer related Crimes’. Around 96.5 thousand crimes were reported under Section 66 during 2002 and 2021. The various crimes that form the sub-categories of Section 66 include – Offences other than ransomware, Dishonesty receiving stolen computer resource or communication device, Identity Theft, Cheating by personation by using computer resource, Violation of Privacy, etc.
Among these, ‘cheating by personation by using computer resource’ constitutes the major subcategory. Among other crimes categorised under IT Act, Section 67 i.e., publication or transmission of obscene content has the next highest with around 26.7 thousand crimes reported since 2002.
In the next story, we analyse the trends in various types of crimes across States.