Terrorists Using Cryptocurrency, Metaverse; Need Global Cooperation on Cybercrime: PM Modi

Terrorist organisations are using technology for radicalisation and capitalising on emerging digital avenues such as the dark net, metaverse and cryptocurrency platforms, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said while seeking global cooperation to deal with cybercrimes.

In an exclusive interview with PTI, he said the World Bank has estimated that cyber-attacks could have caused losses of around $5.2 trillion (roughly Rs. 4,30,00,000 crore) to the world during 2019-2023, but their impact goes beyond just financial aspects into activities that are deeply worrying.

He said these can have social and geopolitical implications.

“Cyber terrorism, online radicalisation, use of networked platforms to move funds from money laundering to drugs and terrorism – are just the tip of the iceberg,” he said.

Modi said cyberspace has introduced an entirely new dimension to the battle against illicit financial activities and terrorism.

“Terrorist organisations are using technology for radicalisation, moving money from money laundering and drugs into terror funding, and capitalising on emerging digital avenues such as the dark net, metaverse, and cryptocurrency platforms to fulfil their nefarious aims,” he said.

Stressing the need for taking the cyber threats very seriously, the prime minister said one angle of their adverse impact is the financial losses they cause.

Further, he said, cyber-attacks can also have implications for the social fabric of nations.

PM Modi said the spread of ‘deep fakes’ can cause chaos and loss of credibility of news sources. He said fake news and ‘deep fakes’ can be used to fuel social unrest.

“So, it is of concern to every group, every nation, and every family. That is why we have taken this up as a priority,” he said.

The prime minister noted that India hosted a G20 Conference on Crime and Security in the Age of NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens), Artificial Intelligence and Metaverse in July in Gurugram.

During this conference, he said, concern was expressed over malicious cyber activities contrary to established norms, principles and rules of cyberspace and international law.

Modi said it was stressed that coordination on prevention and mitigation strategies is needed and emphasis was placed on the need to achieve a comprehensive international convention on countering the use of ICTs (Information and Communications Technologies) for criminal purposes.

He said there may be many domains in which global cooperation is desirable but in the domain of cyber security, global cooperation is not only desirable but is inevitable.

“Because the threat dynamics are distributed – handlers are somewhere, assets are somewhere else, they are speaking through servers hosted in a third place, and their funding could come from a completely different region. Unless all the nations in the chain cooperate, very little is possible,” he said.

Speaking at the G20 conference in July, Union Home Minister Amit Shah had warned the global community about security challenges that have evolved from “dynamite to metaverse” and “hawala to cryptocurrency” and asked G20 member countries to rise above conventional boundaries and share information on a real-time basis to check all crimes in the cyberspace.

Shah had underlined the threats emanating from cyber criminals using darknet, metaverse, deepfakes, ransomware and toolkit-based misinformation campaigns and strategic targeting of critical information and financial systems.

According to the data given in Parliament on December 13, 2022, over 16 lakh cybercrime incidents had been reported in India in the three-year period beginning 2019 following which more than 32,000 FIRs were registered.

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