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Himanshu Roy

IWB Blogger

We Asked The India’s First Woman Cyber Crime Investigator Dhanya Why Her Facebook Is Disguised In Dance

  • IWB Post
  •  February 5, 2019

It was one of the most sensational cases in Kerala when the cops were at their wit’s end, cornered by the pressure from the media and the civil society. Three schoolgirls had committed suicide and the police was clueless with none of their theories getting them close to the motive.

Enter Dhanya Menon, a dancer by heart and cyber crime investigator by profession. What followed was a brilliant examination of the case that would put even Miss Marple and Sherlock Holmes to shame.

Finally, it was with the help of Menon’s penchant for decoding the murky world of cyber-crime that the police zeroed in on some boys from another school who had been blackmailing the girls.

When I learned that I would be interviewing Menon, India’s ace woman cyber crime investigator and also an accomplished classical dancer, a cache of questions lurked in my mind.

I started off the interview by asking how she got interested in cyber crime investigation.

Actually, it was my grandfather, Mr. CV Menon, who insisted that I should take up this branch of study. It was in the early 2000s when the awareness about cyber crime was very low, and even I had only sketchy ideas about cyber crime investigation.

Your grandfather must have been farsighted, to understand this aspect of the internet at a time when most of us only connected it to sending emails and downloading games?img_1 (1)

Yes, of course! A lawyer himself, my grandfather understood that the internet is a public space with too much personal information about millions of people. It was just a matter of time before the misuse would begin.

My grandfather had once told me that “today, people know you as my granddaughter, but there will be a time when they will know me as your grandfather. It was like coming a full circle for us when during the years before he passed away, people would call him to tell about the work that I was doing as a cyber crime investigator and he wouldn’t stop raving about it.

Why do you think that women are more vulnerable to the threat of cyber crimes?

Actually, it is a common misconception that women are more vulnerable to cyber crimes. Let me tell you, in all these years of hobnobbing with cyber crime investigation, if one thing that I have learned it is this that both men and women are equally vulnerable to this menace.

So, you also have cases where men are harassed on the internet?

Oh, loads of them! I think these cases don’t get much publicized because of less media attention and the fact that often the men are reluctant to go to the police and report about their ordeals because of a misplaced sense of shame.

So what would be your advice to parents to keep their children away from the clutches of cyber crime?

The first thing that I would say is that there is a need for parents to educate themselves about the internet and its benefits along with the threats that it poses. There is no point in keeping children away from the internet as it is impossible in today’s technology driven world. All you need is a good understanding of it.

What are some of the lessons you’ve learned from handling so many cyber crimes?

(laughs) I think that I have learned not to get too emotionally involved in the cases as then it creates a sense of hindrance in the investigation. I guess that over the time I have hardened up after seeing so many shocking instances that now I know my way around.

Have you ever been a victim of cyber crime?

I used to and still sometimes get calls from unknown numbers repeatedly. There have been a couple of instances when I had to go to the police. So yes, even I have had to deal with a fair share of such instances, but I always knew what to do. That is what holds the maximum weight:  awareness.

The discussion took a light turned as we talked about the side of Menon that adds nazakat to her profession. Dancing. Turns out she has a burning passion for Mohiniattam and Kuchipudi and how she has performed in countless shows.

I have always been a dancer by heart, and it is the love of my life. There have been times when I have spoken to the police from the middle of a show a helping them solve cases and simultaneously waited for my turn to go up on the stage. But when I perform, I completely shut the cyber crime investigator in me and concentrate on the dancing.img_2 (1)

So, how are you a dancer in your office and investigator on the stage?

(laughs) Oh, the dancer in me never ceases to exist, even when I am in the office. But as I said, when I am on stage, there are no thoughts on cyber crime investigation.

What about your favorite performance?

Oh, I think that is yet to come. If an artist feels that she has already given her best, then it becomes very boring. And, that’s why I don’t follow any fixed routine because every day I want my life to surprise me.img

Menon also told me about her cyber crime investigation consultancy firm Avanzo Cyber Security that has now become much sought out by people who have seen the bad side of the internet.

I have had victims aged between 5-74 years, that show that how every year, cyber crime cases are on the rise.

Any pointers to all those sifting through online sites during Valentine’s Month?

Along with the knowledge about internet scams, one should also be sure about the fact that they want to provide personal information on these websites. Would you drive if didn’t know how to drive? Well, it’s just that simple.

First published on Feb 17, 2017.

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