AI AND CYBERCRIMES IN KERALA
Author: Anugra Anna Shaju, pursuing B.A.,LL.B.(Hons.) from National University of Advanced Legal Studies (NUALS), Kochi
Artificial intelligence can be said to be the ability of machines to think and process information like a human. Though mostly they are devoid of emotions and consciousness, they are extremely powerful and efficient ways to process large amounts of information. Robots and AI technologies are becoming part and parcel of everyday life. They are becoming more capable of performing tasks similar to that of humans and are already involved in various areas like information assistance, physical assistance, surveillance and so forth. They have also made an entry in policing functions and in maintaining security, law and order. These technologies are becoming an integral part of the law enforcement ecosystem and the police force. Kerala is a state that has made huge strides in integrating technology in their policing methods and police force. However, the issue of cybercrimes is still rampant in the state. Cybercrime can be said to be an unlawful action using a computer or its systems or its online, offline applications to commit or cover a crime. The use of AI in investigating and solving cybercrimes and crimes in general is a game changer as it helps a lot in processing complaints, in the investigation process and in evidence collection and also because most crimes today have a cyber-aspect to it. However the use of AI has certain positive as well as negative consequences.
AI AND KERALA POLICE
Kerala has made huge strides in inducting AI technologies into their policing and police work force and the Kerala police are pioneers in the integration of technology. The police department has taken a keen interest in developing and using AI technologies in their policing. The state police Chief Loknath Behera have at multiple occasions emphasized that robotics and Artificial Intelligence would be part of everyday living in the coming days.
Humanoid Robot in the Police
The state is the first in the country to have a humanoid robot in the police department. The Robocop named KP-Bot was inducted in the police force by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on February 20, 2019.[i] The robot serves in the rank of a Sub Inspector (SI) and performs duties of the front office at the police headquarters. It will receive visitors and guide them to the concerned departments as required. It is also required to give detailed and accurate information to the visitors about the procedures and the services available in the office. The robot can enquire about the details of the visitors and record their complaints. It can directly interact with people through voice or through messages on its screen. It is equipped to fix appointments with officers (officers can connect with the robot through tele-presence), provide identity cards to the visitors and open new case files based on the visitor’s grievance. It can also identify higher officials and greet them with a salutelike the other police officers. It is also a legally aware machine that can file cases for illegal acts it comes across. For example, if a person offers it bribe, it can take steps to file a case against the person. With a range of sensors and ability to gather information from its surroundings, the robot works seamlessly alongside humans.
Though the robot isn’t developed enough to replace anyone’s work and is only a first contact point or tool to collect data, it will reduce the workload of the police force. Importantly when people visit the police stations they would be in distress and would be expecting someone or something to listen to their grievances and give prompt and correct response whether it be a human or a robot. The humanoid robot fulfils this expectation very well. Such a provision where the robot is recording and filing cases would make more people come forward and file cases without hesitation and would solve the issue of reluctance of many police departments to lodge FIRs on certain cases. Also given that most government infrastructure in Kerala is quite complex and different departments hard to locate, the humanoid robot is a huge help to the elderly and illiterate people.
The idea to induct a robot into the police force was first announced during the Cocon Cyber Conference following which the idea was brought to fruition bystate police cyber dome and a Kochi based start-up, Asimov Robotics.
Cocon Cyber Conference
The Cocon Cyber Conference, earlier known as Cyber Safe is an initiative of Kerala Policethat was started in 2008 in collaboration with Information Security Research Organization (ISRA).[ii] The event is conducted as part of the International Information Security Day and has covered various themes liketackling cyber terror, ethical hacking, free tools for cyber investigation, etc. The 2019 conference saw themes like artificial intelligence, security compliance, password less economy, embedded systems, securing payment data, routing protocols for enhanced anonymity, tackling fake news, threat hunting, statistical correlations in tracking adversaries, third party risk management, cloud security, block chain technology, etc.[iii]
The aim of the conference is to introduce new technologies and deliberate how they can be used for policing and ensure that the police are current on all technological trends that would help them prevent crimes and bring peace and order in the state.
The Kerala police also conduct Kid Glove as part of the CoconConference that focuses on online child protection workshops for parents, teachers and organizations to orient them towards the various cyber threats to children.
Crime and Criminal Tracking Network System
Crime and Criminal Tracking Network System (CCTNS) is a Mission Mode Project (MMP) under the National e-Governance Plan of Government of India and Kerala has been selected as a pilot state for the implementation of the project. It aims at creating a comprehensive and integrated system to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of policing and to automate police functions at police stations. It will facilitate and pave the path for online registration of complaints, means to check status of cases registered at the police station, verification of persons etc. The records of crimes and criminals at one police station will be accessible to the other police stations also and this will make collection, storage, retrieval, analysis, transfer and sharing of data and information easier. The records will be available to the different police stations, State Headquarters and Central Police Organizations.
The centre is working on an AI based database called Modus Operandi Bureau (MOB) as part of the CCTNScontaining the modus operandi of criminals to help the police solve cases faster by spreading information on new methods adopted by criminals. This database will be updated from time to time and the police investigations will have technological solutions, they will be able to identify similar cases using keywords. Importantly the system would allow police to get an idea on who the criminal may be or who may have committed the particular crime and could help avert incidents like in the case of serial killers based on the modus operandi.The system will also be using voice analysis to identify the person over ransom or threat calls using database of voice samples of previously arrested criminals.
Cyber dome is the technological research and development centre of Kerala Police that coordinate external technical expertise or civilian experts with the police force to meet the latest challenges in cyberspace and to ensure that lack of technology do not prevent them from getting the criminals. It aims to prevent crimes through public-private partnership as the police may not be able to meet the latest challenges in cyberspace. The centre also focuses on monitoring the social media and the dark nets. By working with private agencies, the police are working towards a cyber-threat resilient ecosystem. The centre works with government departments and agencies and research groups.
Use of AI Technologies during the Pandemic
As the virus started spreading it was important to impose lockdown restriction and ensure law and order while also spreading awareness about the pandemic. The SAYABOT helped the Kerala police with this task. The robots were used to spread awareness among the employees working in Kerala Start-up Mission (KSUM). One of the robots was trained to dispense sanitizer, tissue paper and masks while the other was trained to answer all major questions related to Covid-19 based on information from the WHO database.
The police used drones with sirens and other features to broadcast safety audios and awareness messages. The drones powered by artificial intelligence had helped police track down lockdown violations and carry out surveillance tasks. They were very useful to disperse crowds and collect data. Advanced versions had options to carry out thermal scanning of crowds, collate data and process it to detect virus infectionfrom a safe distance.
Proposed AI Projects
The 2021 state budget saw Rs.5 crore being allocated for the setting up of virtual police stations.[iv] With increasing use of AI technologies in everyday life including policing and the Kerala police’s enthusiasm to integrate advanced technologies into their police workforce, this budget allocation is no surprise. The amount would be used to set up kiosks that serve as virtual police stationsas tantamount as a real police station at public places. The pandemic had necessitated the setting up of such virtual police stations whereby people don’t have to visit actual police stations to register their complaints.Manoj Abraham,ADGP Headquarters and nodal officer of Kerala Police Cyber dome has held that though initially the virtual polices stations may be restricted to basic stuff such as registering complaints and other policing services, it can be scaled up tobe used in criminal investigation, including evidence collection, filing of charge sheets etc. in due course.[v]Many others also feel that AI can be a game changer in processing complaints, investigating crimes and in evidence collection.
CYBERCRIMES WITH REFERENCE TO KERALA
The Kerala police are becoming increasingly self-reliant in technology and are using top technologies to prevent cybercrimes and ensure security. Their works in the cyberspace are beneficial to the society and has become a great initiative to prevent and investigate cybercrimes.
However despite the tech savviness of Kerala police, the state is not free from cybercrimes. In fact, there have been instance of hackers hacking the state’s Police Academy website regarding an incident in which a couple set themselves on fire during a confiscation process.[vi]The hacking was done by a group called “Cyber Warriors” who felt that the police’s statements in the incident were unbecoming of the police force. So the state including the police force is not free from cyber-attacks.
A report by K7 Computing found that Kerala recorded the highest number of cyber-attacks, around 2000 attacks during the lockdown.[vii] The attackers targeted the state with Covid-19 themed attacks and exploited the panic around coronavirus thus affecting people’s trust. Most of these attacks aimed to collect confidential data, banking details through phishing attacks and apps disguised as Covid-19 information apps. Also a hurried change to work from home policy and increased use of online sites and apps had given rise to the attacks.Thus with people’s life increasingly shifting to the internet and the digital world, there was a rise in cybercrimes in the state.
Cybercrimes are not limited to financialcrimes and can be used to commit heinous and organised crimes, sell drugs and arms and for human trafficking among other illegal activities. The dark nets are being used for criminal activities and have become a haven for drug dealers, arm traffickers,child pornography collectors and other criminals. When the criminals use someone else’s identity, it becomes extremely difficult to catch them.
Along with this many are not aware about cybercrimes. Majority people lack basic awareness about cybercrimes and have reservations about reporting it. Most cybercrime cases occur on social networking and blogging sites and involve financial crimes like card details fraud or disclosure of confidential or personal details. Other crimes involve publishing or transmitting material containing lascivious themes, software piracy or theft or trade of intellectual property, spoofing and defamation.
Finally investigating and prosecuting cybercrimes is harder than other crimes due to evidence requirements and cross-national boundaries.Also today’s cyber criminals use modern and sophisticated technologies and theanonymity provided over the internet or their use offake identities is an added protection for them. The police are not as equipped enough to investigate and prevent cybercrimes.
AI AND CYBERCRIMES
Investigating cybercrimes and preventing cybercrimes is one of the major challenging areas for law enforcement agencies. AI technologies play a huge role in this area. However likewith every other thing, AI also has positive and negative impacts on cybercrimes.
It is important that police and investigation departments leverage technology effectively and depend on digital evidence in order to establish cybercrime. MoreoverAI technologies can help the police better analyse, study and understand cybercrimes and develop such technologies to prevent cybercrimes.
AI tools will improve performance over time by learning from human security analysts and are capable of going through logs of data and spotting suspicious activities. They are becoming extremely important with the huge log of data that need to be stored, can be helpful to manage such large amounts of data and make them searchable, filterable and retrievable in real-time.
AI can ensure 24/7 protection against cyber-attacks and will be able to detect, identify and respond to threats and is much more efficient than human-based monitoring alone.Most security breaches happen due to human error, a 2014 IBM study says that 95% of all cybercrime results from human error.[viii]This can be prevented by integrating AI technologies in the system.
Given that hackers are already using AI technologies, it is necessary to have AI enabled response and having cyber security defences with AI is imperative. Other ways in which AI are useful for the police are in video analysis where officers can filter searches to look for specific characteristics and wouldn’t have to watch long videos to find suspects or evidence, in audio analysis to find the person using their voice, to find relevant parts of the audio or to print out the audio transcription, for gunshot detection, for crime forecasting using predictive analytics or to find information from similar cases, for forensic analysis andDNA analysis because most crimes today have a digital component to them.
People with knowledge about AI technologies can use it according to their need to target people andcollecttheir data. They can hone and improve the cybercrimes they commit. It allows them to launch more sophisticated attacks.
AI technologies learn from the data feed to them and in the process store data. This data when they reach the wrong hands can be used for cybercrimes. Here data security and privacy is a major concern. For example, artificial intelligence technologies can be used to mimic one’s voice after hearing recordings of the person speaking. XinhuaNet reports that there are AI software programs that can speak any typed messages in a particular voice after hearing the voice for twenty minutes.[ix]This technology can be used to collect sensitive data or to command someone to do something over phone calls and the person on the other end will mostly not suspect anything and would do as the caller said.
Advanced AI technologies learn independently and adapt its understanding based on the data it receives, the entire foundation of such technologies is data. There are chances of incorrect and misleading data being put into the systems such that they affect the output or is beneficial to the attacker.
It is wrong to keep the human component completely away from such technologies and expect technology to solve every problem ethically. This is because technology would not be able to understand complexities and absurdities of the Constitution, laws and policies as well as human conduct in different situations. The goal of AI technologies should be to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the police and should not be a replacement for them.
The Kerala model of technology integration into the police force is an example for the other states in the country. AI technologies make it easier to process complaints, conduct investigations and in evidence collection. They help reduce the workload on the police by performing simple administrative tasks and information dissemination to complex tasks of audio, video or data analysis and help maintain proper records of data and information such that they are easily available. However to solve the issue of cybercrimes mere integration of technology is not enough. Also there are certain limitations in AI technologies which could adversely affect the police’s ability to curtail cybercrimes. Increasing awareness among people about cybercrimes, strengthening cybercrime investigation units across the state, ensuring that the force does not lag behind technological advancements and most importantly knowledge that AI technologies cannot completely replace humans is necessary.
[i] https://www.indiatoday.in/trending-news/story/india-first-robocop-kerala-police-inducts-robot-gives-si-rank-1460371-2019-02-20 [ii]https://keralapolice.gov.in/home/page/initiatives/list [iii]https://keralapolice.gov.in/home/page/initiatives/list [iv]https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/now-ai-to-power-virtual-police-stations/article33581173.ece [v]https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/now-ai-to-power-virtual-police-stations/article33581173.ece [vi]https://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-kerala-cyber-warriors-hack-state-police-academy-website-write-dismiss-criminals-in-khaki-2865166 [vii]https://cio.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/digital-security/kerala-records-highest-number-of-cyber-attacks-during-lockdown-report/75866236 [viii] https://www.cio.com/article/3262708/how-ai-can-stop-cybercrime.html [ix] https://www.thesslstore.com/blog/artificial-intelligence-in-cyber-security-the-savior-or-enemy-of-your-business/#:~:text=The%20use%20of%20artificial%20intelligence,to%20launch%20more%20sophisticated%20attacks