THIRUVANANTHAPURAM:“Think 200 times before you post anything. The scope of danger online doesn’t have any limitations. Hundred percent no deletion, no authority, and no anonymity online, whatever happens,” Dhanya Menon, noted cybercrime investigator, emphasises the points she wished everyone using cyberspace was aware of. She is the one whom countless people turn to when they get entangled in the dark web. With an experience spanning 14 years in the field, Dhanya Menon is arguably the first woman cybercrime investigator in India.
It was a chance happening. Dhanya was on an errand to collect a cheque for her firm from a consultancy organisation. She was told they would only give her the cheque if she attended a seminar. It was a cybercrime workshop and the organisers only wanted to fill the slot. Little would they know that the woman would turn out to be a top-notch cybersecurity expert in future. Posted as cybercrime consultant for the Nirbhaya project, Dhanya was in the city to meet senior police officers. “Every assignment that comes to me is a responsibility. I am happy and will give my 100 percent for that.”
It was her grandfather P B Menon, who was a senior advocate of the Supreme Court, who pushed her into the field. “It was never planned,” Dhanya would tell after years, but she couldn’t be happier with how things have evolved over the years. After the workshop, she enrolled herself to learn more about cyberlaw. That was in 2004. She ventured into the field at a time when the cybercrime cases didn’t have a definition. And there was no looking back ever since.
Recently, she was among the ‘100 Women Achievers’ selected by the Union ministry for women and child welfare. She received the award from President Ram Nath Kovind. Initially, her cases used to affect her on an emotional level. “But dancing helped me,” says Dhanya who started training in classical dance at the age of three.
Although she has been in the field since 2004, it was only in 2010 that she set up her own investigative agency, the Avanzo Cyber Security Solutions, at Thrissur. Cases of diverse nature land on her table. “Issues that came to me were so strange the worst fiction I’d read seemed sober in comparison,” she recalls. The number of cases has only burgeoned. Corporate cases include mostly data pilferage and security issues. “Those are easier to deal with, although they aren’t technically easier.
They are emotionally easier to deal with,” she says. It is when kids turn perpetrators of the crime that it hurts her the most. “Emotionally, it destroys me. It hurts me as a mother. No child wants to get into a crime. They are just attention seekers or want to do something different,” she says. It was considering this that she designed a Cyber Awareness Program (CAP) which is a one-year activity-based curriculum for schools.Apart from offering guidance, her intervention is mainly to ensure that the victims do not destroy evidence.