Evolving to fight evolving cybercrime

Evolving is one of the keys to survival and success in most cases, and the failure to evolve can itself become a reason for failure. Certain ills that plague society, no matter how much we abhor them, will always evolve and exist in one form or another, and will continue to affect the society in various ways. They evolve with the changing world, and they find new ways to exist and to escape from those who are entrusted with the task of enforcing the law. That is why law enforcement agencies also need to be proactive, and evolve by employing new strategies and technologies. 

The Police, this week, arrested a man for allegedly trafficking a 15-year-old girl for the purpose of sex. According to the Police, the girl in question had been trafficked on a daily basis for over a period of three months, through the publishing of advertisements on social media platforms. 

Child sex trafficking is not a new issue, and using the Internet for illegal activities is also not a new development. However, a 15-year-old girl being sold to random people who use the Internet for over a period of three months is alarming, as it shows how easily even the worst of crimes can happen online without those who would oppose them noticing. 

Social media platforms have become a necessity of a considerable portion of the population that use the Internet. According to reports, out of the 10 million Sri Lankans who use the Internet, around 6.4 million are social media users. In this context, it is not an exaggeration to say that ensuring the people’s safety on social media and ensuring that the social media is a safe place is a matter that concerns a considerable number of Sri Lankans that use social media.

Social media became a topic of discussion in the past few weeks mainly due to the authorities’ plans to curb fake and misleading news. Even though that became a debatable topic due to the vagueness of certain factors that are usually used to decide whether a piece of information constitutes fake and misleading news, official discussions in that connection are reportedly underway. That is a need of the hour; however, online crimes such as the one mentioned above, call for more serious and urgent action than fake and misleading news.

In fact, in such incidents, traditional corrective measures can do very little; what is needed are preventive measures that involve more frequent and more in-depth monitoring of social media platforms. However, Sri Lanka’s law enforcement authorities do not appear to be in step with such measures used by other countries. 

However, that is not to say that Sri Lanka’s law enforcement agencies do not evolve and develop. The Police starting to use drone cameras to monitor people’s movements during lockdowns, for example, is a sign of said evolution. Last year, it was reported that the authorities had paid more attention to rehabilitating inmates. However, such changes seldom happen, and we move forward at a snail’s pace compared to the changes taking place in other countries.

When we need to develop strategic skills in law enforcement authorities, we focus on increasing the number of officers, and when we need to learn humane and newer methods of interrogating, we resort to violence. This plethora of long overdue changes is a discussion for another time. However, this situation as a whole not only affects the civilians expecting the services of these authorities, but also hinders a much larger progress the law enforcement agencies could have achieved had they adopted practices that are more in step with the modern world. 

How fast and successful the law enforcement agencies are in adopting new strategies is what determines whether they would grow to outsmart offenders, and in that lies the safety of the people.