Unravelling the journey of India’s first woman cybercrime investigator Dhanya Menon

Dhanya has spent over 20 years tackling cybercrime across the country and she believes one must question themselves every time before they transact on the internet, because there is no privacy.

Unravelling the journey of India’s first woman cybercrime investigator Dhanya Menon

Tuesday March 15, 2022,

4 min Read

Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos once said, “There’ll always be serendipity involved in discovery.” Sometimes, even discovering yourself comes by fate and for Dr Pattathil Dhanya Menon, a twist of fate made her India’s first woman cybercrime investigator. She is currently a Director at Avanzo Cyber Security Solutions. 

“I didn't know what I was getting into. It was just like listening to a nice story or watching a nice thrilling movie, and then maybe I didn't resist it. That's all that I did,” she says..

In a fireside chat with Rekha Balakrishnan, Editor, HerStory on the side-lines of HerStory’s Women on a Mission Summit, Dhanya spoke about her journey as a cybercrime investigator. She shared how almost two decades ago, being a cybercrime expert was not even considered a career and how the first few cases were almost like dealing with equipment, retrieving a hard disk or probably cracking a password. 

But as she started handling cases independently, she realised that the job is not as glamorous as it may sound in movies and books. 

“The only thing that is realistic about the movies or novels is that you read and the real-life is one morning, you wake up with a call where somebody says, I have to meet you to speak to you because we are in trouble. Now that is the only realistic part. 

“From there to the end of the issue is far from reality. And you have to call at the end of the day and say okay so much I have done let's see what can be done tomorrow. Today, I need to break and sit down. This is what every person in my organisation gets to do every day.”

The job also takes a heavy toll on one’s mental state, she highlights.

“The first few cases, which I independently handled on the social level, have been heartbreaking. They were worse than the best fiction that I've ever read in my life. So it's been really alarming that I started thinking- ‘Why is life so horrible?’ There was no life recourse to anybody's emotional torture that they've gone through. And the hurt, definitely there is no recourse to it. “

She believes that today more than the crime we need to fight the mentality of those involved in these crimes as well as how we as a society perceive them. Sitting alone in front of the screen gives a psychological feel that we can shut it down and everything will get over. Or, a new ID can be created for a fresh start.

“But these are the myths that we need to break among the users of the digital space,” she says.

Also, if a woman’s picture has been misused by somebody, a lot of times people tend to victim-shame the woman rather than blaming the person responsible for the leak.

“I think this needs to be sorted out in a different way than technically or legally and cyberspace alone is not a fight that we are talking about for women and children,” she adds.

The sleuth believes there is a need to create awareness about the dark web and the risks people are exposed to in the virtual space. One should question themselves every time before they go on the internet, before they transact on the internet.

“Once on the internet, you are forever on the internet. You have no privacy. Transact only so much on the internet that you are willing to accept on the internet,” she advised.

A shout out to the sponsors of Women on Mission Summit 2022, an Initiative by HerStory, by YourStory - BYJU'S, the presenting partner, and other sponsors - Kyndryl, Sequoia Spark, Zilingo, Atlassian, Akamai, Freshworks for Startups, and Netapp Excellerator.

Sponsor shoutout

Edited by Ramarko Sengupta