Cybercrimes in the country have increased four times or 306% in the last four years. In 2016, 12,317 cases of cybercrime were registered and in 2020 this number increased to 50,035. This means that India registered 136 cybercrime cases every day in 2020, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.

Safer Internet Day, observed every year to promote safer and more responsible use of online technology and mobile phones, this time called upon all stakeholders to join together to make the internet a safer and better place for all with the theme. This prompted FactChecker to take stock of cybercrime in India and determine if we are headed towards safety or not.

India's cybercrime rate, or the number of cybercrimes per lakh of population, also shot up by 270% in four years — in 2016, it was 1 and 2020 saw it climb up to 3.7.

The NCRB data revealed that, on an average, 65.81% of cybercrime cases were pending investigation at the end of each year. This is also because cases from previous years that have not been taken up for investigation overflow onto the next year. An average of 45.57% of cases taken up for investigation in a particular year were those that were pending investigations from the previous year.

In 2016, 24,187 cybercrime cases were up for investigation and, of these, 11,870 were from 2015, 14,973 were still pending investigation at the end of the year and 9,213 were disposed off by the police. In 2020, the cases up for investigation rose to 1.03 lakh, and half of these or 51.1% (53,157) were from the previous year, 71.29% or 74,142 were still pending investigation at the end of the year.

Cybercrime Cases Rise in Almost All States

Except Sikkim and Chandigarh, cybercrime cases shot up in every state and Union territory in 2020 as compared to 2016.

Mizoram saw an increase of 1200%, but the north-eastern state registered only 13 cases in 2020 as compared to the 1 case filed in 2016. In absolute number of cases, Karnataka topped the list with an increase of 9,640 cases over the same period, recording a rise in cybercrime cases by 875.56%.

While Sikkim and Chandigarh saw a reduction of 1 and 9 cases registered, respectively, between 2016 and 2020, Uttar Pradesh saw an increase of 8,458 cases (second to Karnataka), and Telangana ranked third with an increase of 4,431 cases.

Cases on Sharing Obscene Content Rise 5 Times

In four years since 2016, cases lodged for publishing sexually explicit content have increased by 559.14%. As many as 6,308 such cases were reported in 2020, which were 12.6% of the total cases filed that year. This number was 957 cases in 2016, which constituted 7.76% of total cases filed in the year.

Since 2017, while cases of identity theft increased by 38.2%, those on cyber stalking and bullying women and children rose by 60.88% (542 in 2017 and 872 in 2020).

India saw registration of 3,724 cases of identity thefts in 2017 and 5,148 in 2020. But the number of such cases reported in 2020 is lower than those filed in 2018 (6,688) and 2019 (12,255). This means that cases of identity theft rose by 79.59% in 2018, which further increased by 83.23% in 2019 and then dropped by 58% in 2020.

Cases lodged for data theft have seen considerable rise and fall over the last four years —86 in 2016, 307 in 2017, 106 in 2018, 285 in 2019, and 98 in 2020.

Fraud Biggest Cybercrime Motive

Over half of cybercrime cases registered in the last four years have been committed with the motive to fraud the victim — an average of 58.69% of total cases registered have been filed under fraud. In 2020, 50,035 cases were reported and, of these, fraud was the motive behind 30,142 of them.

Sexual exploitation was the motive behind an average of 6.3% cybercrime cases between 2017 and 2020. In 2017, 1,460 cases (of a total 21,796 cybercrime cases) were committed with the intention to sexually exploit the victim. This number increased by 125% to 3,293 (of a total of 50,035 cybercrime cases) in 2020.