Dhanya Menon, on being motivated by her Godfather, went on to attend a workshop on cybercrime. Little did she know that years later, she would be actually donning the investigator’s hat and become India’s first woman Cybercrime Investigator. Dhanya is a native of Thrissur, Kerala and a graduate in computer science. Here’s celebrating this fierce woman’s 15 years of experience as a Cybercrime Investigator.
Read on to know her story.
Q. A lady being a detective is unusual. How did you decide to become one?
Ans. It was never planned or even a dream that came true. A pure destiny or I would call it a sheer stroke of luck. My Godfather and my grandfather’s elder brother – P B Menon, who happened to be a senior advocate at Supreme Court, wanted me to pursue law which I didn’t. He was sure about the future of cyber law and suggested me to pursue this different path instead. This was 2002. I went on to earn a post-graduate diploma course in Cyber Law and Intellectual Property Rights in Cyber Space.
Luckily, his passion became mine and today I am here.
Q. What exactly kept you going in Cybercrime Investigation?
Ans. As I said earlier, I wasn’t passionate about this job. It happened to me. The good thing was that I had my mentor constantly thinking for me and guiding me, even while I was going through a bad marriage. Ironically, that phase of my life got me into doing this. But today I would not give up on this career because now I know I am doing something which makes a difference to one human somewhere every day.
As a child, I always wanted to be a dancer. I keep the dancer in me alive today as well, as dancing is the only passion I had since childhood.
The Dancer Menon
Q. Tell us about your first case and the experience you learned from it?
Ans. The first case that I ever handled on social media was when an Orkut user had created a fake profile to get back at his teacher and mother who often scolded him or insulted him. He was just a little boy.
The lessons I have learnt are too many to pen down:
Never underestimate a little child
Life is stranger than any fiction ever read.
No emotions in work
Don’t take things personally
The human mind is the monkey
Q. Did your family support you on your dreams?
Ans. We still live together as a joint family. They are the strongest pillars for me without them I would have never been able to achieve this position. They are the biggest gift I thank God for every day.
Q. Do you need to have a background in law enforcement to be a Cybercrime Investigator?
Ans. It is not a requirement, but it surely helps.
Q. As we know, the internet is boosting but yet not secured for women and girls in general. What’s your solution?
Ans. Internet is not secured for any user. There is no gender discrimination in cybercrime. The thump rule is to learn how to use this technology. Awareness is the only solution.
Q. What was your most dangerous/memorable case?
Ans. It will be very difficult to segregate one that stands out. The most memorable one would be the first one always, like for any other professional and the most challenging one would be the one that I am dealing with at present.
Q.What are the essential skills of a Cybercrime Investigator?
Ans. To be technically updated to the best of one’s ability. Be vigilant and stay wide awake
Q. What kind of obstacles do you run into when you are investigating in general?
Ans. Most of the time it is the people. They only want shortcut solutions to their problems. People want personal information about others but are not be ready to walk that extra mile to go legal.
Q. Please tell us a bit about your agency Avanzo Cyber Security Solution?
Ans. Launched in the year 2010, Avanzo is a consultancy firm for cyber security. The firm aims to advice and guide youths in handling post-traumatic phase of cybercrimes. We serve people who are mostly unaware of how to file complaints, or collect evidence for court, etc.
Additionally, I also work on government and corporate cases. I conduct awareness programmes around cyber safety on topics, such as, mobile misuse, identity theft, fake profiles, and piracy, in schools, colleges, corporate offices and state and central government departments.
Q. How many women work with you in the agency currently?
Ans. Now we are seven women in my organisation. We started with eight issues a month and now we close to 200 complaints a week.
Q. What does the future looks like for women in India and overall in perusing a career as Cybercrime Investigator?
Ans. The future is always bright for anyone here.
Q. This profession has been strictly male-dominated. Will that day come when women will have equality in the sector?
Ans. I don’t believe in gender discrimination. I have never faced an issue on account of being a female.
Q. What advice would you give to people when it comes to posting content on social media, what precautions should we take?
Ans. Think 200 times before posting on the internet.
Do not trust internet.
There is no 100 per cent deletion on internet.
Internet is a public space.
Learn to be aware.
Be conscious of the positive and negative sides of the space you’re using.