For the last two decades, Bangladesh has been witnessing a gradual proliferation of information and communications technologies (ICT) - from the introduction of the internet in 1996 to the phenomenal rise of smart technologies like iPhone or Android mobiles. An endless network of information highways, the internet has connected humanity to both physical and intangible locations beyond its reach. Nothing remains isolated - home, office, banks, salary, expenses, tourism or travel services, shopping malls, bookstores, family and friends abroad. Virtually, the cyberspace has created a society of its own and added more to the collective consciousness. In fact, Bangladesh's tech-savvy youths cannot even imagine the slightest interruptions in their internet connection despite nearly no access for rural population to cyberspace. However, the country remains underdeveloped in terms of ICT infrastructure and might face a real threat of cyber crimes in the long run.
Apparently, hackers, as computer programmers, willing to explore the remotest corners of cyberspace and eventually exploit the vulnerability of multiple computer systems to initiate cyber attacks against governments or similar entities in the sphere of national security, economy and socio-politics. Since banks, healthcare institutions, social media and public databanks are soft targets, unauthorised distortion of such entities will bring unforeseen crises to Bangladesh. Hackers are often motivated by challenge, financial threat, revenge or an ideological zeal to carry out their clandestine crimes. Usually, the decentralised structure and encrypted features of the internet make it extremely difficult for law enforcement agencies to deal with existing or potential cyber criminals and trace their whereabouts. However, newer technologies are being implemented to enhance surveillance over the cyberspace.
At present, 42 per cent among the world's 7.5 billion people use the internet. People often wonder about the actual definition of cyber crime. Cyber crime primarily refers to any illicit activity that is committed with the help of an electronic-based medium and targets a computer-based platform - when a computer becomes the object of a crime such as hacking, phishing, spamming; or used as a competent tool to commit offences like pornography and racial or religiously-motivated hate speech. Moreover, cyber criminals may apply technologies to access personal information, trade secrets, and exploit cyberspace for malicious purposes. As people are often unaware of confidentiality, criminals can intercept their communications, confidential documents or data storage. Criminals who perform these illegal activities often stay beyond the radar of authorities. Nowadays, specific types of cyber crime are increasing in the realm of financial technologies of online bank information theft, identity theft, online predatory crimes and unauthorised computer access.
Since cyber crime knows no border, the technology that unites the world's population also possesses a darker side - where criminals are able to steal, destroy, corrupt, defraud and exploit, sitting at home! Although, the internet came to Bangladesh quite late, the country does not lag behind in cyber crimes. Almost every organisation in Bangladesh is eager to use the opportunity of cyberspace but such organisations cannot rule out potential threats from cyber criminals. The ICT Act, 2016 has increased penalties for cyber crimes, setting a minimum of seven years of imprisonment and a maximum of 14 years or a fine of Tk10 million or both. However, many cyber crimes do not fall under the law's typical purview since it does not address crimes committed through mobile phones. Furthermore, ICT Act 2016 considers e-mails as evidences - conflicting with the country's Evidence Act that does not recognise e-mails as evidence. Therefore, the government could not address critical issues related to ICT security.
Likewise, the government has taken steps to increase surveillance and monitoring over the entire cyberspace to tackle cybercrimes and cyber-terrorism. This requires the sharing of personal information and scanned fingerprints to the government servers. However, the government should be more careful to maintain such critical information and not to intrude into individual privacy of citizens and abuse its authority to gain political mileage.