Amended Law Paves Way for Cybercrime CrackdownIndia's National Investigation Agency Gets More Power
Both chambers of India's Parliament have passed new legislation that gives National Investigation Agency officers more power to take tough action against cybercrime and terrorism.
See Also: 2020 Cyberthreat Defense Report
The National Investigation Agency (Amendment) Bill 2019 now awaits the president's signature.
As a result of the amendment, NIA will now have the power to probe offenses related to cyber terrorism committed outside India, subject to the international treaties and the domestic laws of other countries. Until now, the NIA's powers were restricted to dealing with cases within India.
The NIA can now investigate cyber terrorism, human trafficking, plus offenses related to counterfeit currency and manufacture or sale of prohibited arms, according to Amit Shah, the minister for home affairs.
"The important change in the bill is to explicitly authorize the investigation agency to deal with cyber terrorism, with special permissions to go beyond borders to nab cybercriminals," says N. Ramachandran, president of the Indian Police Foundation.
The amended law also enables the NIA to have special courts consider cases involving the offenses it outlines. It says the central government can designate sessions courts as special courts to try cybercrime cases to help minimize delays.
The changes made by amending the law are much needed, N.R. Wassan, former acting chief of NIA and director general of the Bureau of Police Research and Development, tells the Hindustan Times.
When the Indian Embassy in Afghanistan was attacked in October 2009, Afghanistan was keen to help India, but the NIA was "not empowered to register a case, investigate and prosecute, as we did not have a bill to this effect of prosecuting the cybercriminals outside our jurisdiction," Wassan points out. "The ability to investigate cases on foreign soil is a much-needed enabling provision."
Some cybersecurity leaders argue that the home ministry needs to set up a process for investigating cyber terrorism cases and provide clarity on its methods.
Prashant Mali, advocate and cybersecurity expert, argues that empowering the investigation agency is a good move, but the central government needs to establish a process to improve coordination with agencies in other countries for tracking and nabbing cybercriminals.
Tackling Cyber Espionage
Some cybersecurity experts say the amended law will help India battle cyber espionagee.
"NIA will be able to target the nexus groups who have been funded by foreign countries to carry out cyber espionage against India with greater aggression," says Rakshit Tandon, cybersecurity trainer for Uttar Pradesh Police.
"With the new bill, NIA will use its wider network along with Interpol and be in a position to gather better intelligence about cybercriminals, which will help them nab cybercriminals quickly," he says.
Some say the amended law will support the new Modi government's digital agenda to crack down on cybercrime.
"The bill will prove effective in designating NIA as a nodal agency to investigate cyber terrorism cases under the section 66F of Information Technology Act 2000, which details about cyber terrorism and related offenses, says Lft. Gen. Rajesh Pant, national cybersecurity coordinator in the prime minister's office.
Balsing Rajput, superintendent of police-cyber, Maharashtra Police, says the bill is a big relief for law enforcement agencies that have been dealing with international cybercriminal groups that have been targeting the Indian government, critical sectors and social media.
"With NIA as the designated agency to strike down cyber terrorism, it will have a focused approach to gather necessary intelligence about the groups and take appropriate action quickly," he says.
But Vicky Shah, advocate and cyber law expert, says that under the amended law, "cyber terrorism" is not well defined, and more clarity is also needed on how criminals will be prosecuted.
A Collaborative Effort
A good information sharing platform will help the NIA in achieving a crackdown on cybercrime, some security experts say.
Mali says the government should define a process for the exchange of evidence that's crucial to prosecutions.
"The bill empowering NIA as the nodal agency will help in making information sharing arrangements on cyber terrorism with foreign service providers," Pant says.
The National Cybersecurity Coordination Center will need to work closely with the NIA to achieve the goals, Shah says.
India has signed a memorandum of understanding with 14 countries, including the U.S. Russia, Israel, France and the U.K., to create joint working groups on cyberthreats and diplomacy.