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CYBER CRIME - BASICS

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1. Introduction

Cyber crime is not an old sort of crime to the world. It is defined as any criminal activity which takes place on or over the medium of computers or internet or other technology recognized by the Information Technology Act. Cyber crime is the most prevalent crime playing a devastating role in Modern India. Not only the criminals are causing enormous losses to the society and the government but are also able to conceal their identity to a great extent. There are number of illegal activities which are committed over the internet by technically skilled criminals. Taking a wider interpretation it can be said that, Cyber crime includes any illegal activity where computer or internet is either a tool or target or both. The term cyber crime may be judicially interpreted in some judgments passed by courts in India, however it is not defined in any act or statute passed by the Indian Legislature. Cyber crime is an uncontrollable evil having its base in the misuse of growing dependence on computers in modern life. Usage of computer and other allied technology in daily life is growing rapidly and has become an urge which facilitates user convenience. It is a medium which is infinite and immeasurable. Whatsoever the good internet does to us, it has its dark sides too.1 Some of the newly emerged cybercrimes are cyber-stalking, cyber-terrorism, e-mail spoofing, e-mail bombing, cyber pornography, cyber defamation etc. Some conventional crimes may also come under the category of cybercrimes if they are committed through the medium of computer or Internet.

2. History and Evolution of Cybercrime

During the period of 1950’s, it would be an astonished feeling for everyone who uses palmtops and microchips today, to know that the first successful computer was built and the size of the computer was so big that it takes the space of entire room and they were too expensive to operate. The functioning of these computer were not understandable to large number of people and only select people with expertise had direct access to such computers, and has the knowledge to operate them. For obvious reasons, the computer technology was extremely expensive and beyond the purchasing capacity of almost the entire population until IBM’s came into being wherein it introduced its stand-alone “personal computer” in 1981 and exposing many to the rewards of quick data access and manipulation that, up to that time, had been realized by few. The Personal computers become cheaper and become household item at the start of 21st century in India. The Internet was first started by the US department of defence, after World War II with the idea to have a network which could work in the event of disaster or war and securely transmit information. The First Network was known as ARPANET, with the development of Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol, World Wide Web and Hypertext the internet become rage all over the world. With the growth of Internet the quality and variety of information grew. However at that point nobody anticipated the opportunities’ the internet is going to provide the technology savvy criminals. In India the internet services started by the state-owned Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited in year 1995 and in 1998 the government has ended the monopoly of VSNL and market is opened to private operators. At that point, the internet users in India are 0.1% of total population, and now India has become the 2 nd largest country in terms of internet users after china with 33.22% people using internet.2 The process of criminalization of human behaviour judged to be harmful the public is typically one that builds slowly in common law jurisdictions. Momentum gained through problem identification and pressures exerted mg special interest groups can easily span decades before undesirable actions are classified as “crime”. In some instances, this process is accelerated through the occurrence of certain “catalyst events” that capture attention of the public and the attention of lawmakers.3 The first recorded cyber crime took place in the year 1820. That is not surprising considering the fact that the abacus, which is thought to be the earliest form of a computer, has been around since 3500 B.C. in India, Japan and China. The era of modem computers, however, began with the analytical engine of Charles Babbage. In 1820, Joseph-Marie Jacquard, a textile manufacturer in France, produced the loom. This device allowed the repetition of a series of steps in the weaving of special fabrics. This resulted in a fear amongst Jacquard’s employees that their traditional employment and livelihood were being threatened. They committed acts of sabotage to discourage Jacquard from further use of the new technology. This is the first recorded cyber crime.4 In the case of computer crime, legislators grew increasingly attentive is the 1980s as businesses became more dependent upon computerization and as catalyst event cases exposed significant vulnerabilities to computer crime violations. Criminals can now easily encrypt information representing evidence of their criminal acts, store the information and even transmit it with little fear of detection by law enforcement. Due to the extraordinary impact of the Internet, a computer crime scene can now span from the geographical point of the victimization (e.g., the victim’s personal computer) to any other point on the planet, further complicating criminal investigative efforts. In effect, computer technology has dramatically altered the criminal justice terrain such that enterprising and opportunistic criminals have consciously turned to the computer to commit their illegal acts in situations in which the computer serves as the instrument of the crime, the means by which the crime is committed, as well as in cases in which the victim’s computer, or computer system, is the target, or objective, of the act. And, as stated above, the presence of new computer technology aids cyber criminals in situations in which the computer’s role is incidental to the crime; situations in which the computer is used to house and protect information that is evidence tying the offender to criminal acts. A commonality among these types of crimes is that the offender, to a great degree, depends upon the lack of technological skills of law enforcement to successfully commit the offenses and escape undetected. Based upon what empirical evidence has been available on self-assessed skills of investigators in this area, computer criminals would have good reason to feel some confidence in their chances to evade detection of their crimes. As we advance towards the 21st century, it van be observed that the technological innovations have laid the way for the entire population using computer technology today, to experience new and wonderful conveniences in their daily life ranging from how to educated, shop, entertain, to availing the understanding of the business strategies and work flow. Our day to-day lives have been forever changed thanks to rapid advances made in the field of computer technology. These changes allow us to communicate over great distances in an instant and permit us, almost effortlessly, to gather and organize large amounts of information, tasks that could, otherwise, prove unwieldy and expensive. The technological treasures that have improved the quality of our lives, however, can reasonably be viewed as a doubled-edged sword. While computer technology has opened doors to enhanced conveniences for many, this same technology has also opened new doors for criminals.

3. Definition of Cyber Crime

The Indian Legislature doesn’t provide the exact definition of Cyber crime in any statute, even the Information Technology Act, 2000; which deals with cyber crime doesn’t defined the term of cyber crime. However in general the term cybercrime means any illegal activity which is carried over or with the help of internet or computers.

Dr. Debarati Halder and Dr. K. Jaishankar define cybercrimes as: “Offences that are committed against individuals or groups of individuals with a criminal motive to intentionally harm the reputation of the victim or cause physical or mental harm, or loss, to the victim directly or indirectly, using modern telecommunication networks such as Internet (Chat rooms, emails, notice boards and groups) and mobile phones (SMS/MMS)

We do not have any precise definition of cyber crime; however following is the general definitions of term cyber crime: The oxford Dictionary defined the term cyber crime as “Criminal activities carried out by means of computers or the Internet.

Cyber crime may be said to be those species, of which, genus is the conventional crime, and where either the computer is an object or subject of the conduct constituting crime

Cyber crime means any criminal or other offence that is facilitated by or involves the use of electronic communications or information systems, including any device or the Internet or any one or more of them.

    Professor S.T. Viswanathan has given three definitions in his book The Indian Cyber Laws with Cyber Glossary is as follows:

    1. Any illegal action in which a computer is the tool or object of the crime i.e. any crime, the means or purpose of which is to influence the function of a computer,
    2. Any incident associated with computer technology in which a victim suffered or could have suffered loss and a perpetrator, by intention, made or could have made a gain,
    3. Computer abuse is considered as any illegal, unethical or unauthorized behavior relating to the automatic processing and transmission of data.

    4. Nature and Scope of Cyber Crime

    Crime is a socially correlated phenomenon. No matter how much we try, we cannot experience a society without cybercrime. In actual sense, when we are not yet able to control the crime rate to the desirable minimum in the real world, how would it be possible to curb the same in the virtual world, as the same is comparatively more unreal, everlasting and legally less controllable. However with the time, nature and scope and definition of crime changes in a given society. Crimeless society is a myth and crime cannot be segregated from a society. Thus the nature of the crime depends upon the nature of a society. Complexity of the society determines the complexity of the crime that evolves’ around it. To understand the crime in a society, it is essential and crucial to verify all the factors which influence and contribute to the crime. The socio- economic and political structure of the society needs to understand the crime and the recourse that may curb the same. The preventive and corrective measures adopted by the machinery to control the crime and delinquent behaviour in the society are also taken into consideration while studying the nature and scope of a crime. The advancement of the technology has produced new socio-economic and political problem in the society and instead of helping the state in controlling the problem it has created new complex situation which is difficult to understand and even more difficult to apply current law to face the situation. The state machinery is not equipped with enough sources and knowledge to handle the modern crime. Computers have transformed the modern society beyond expectations in last three to four decades. It has made life not only convenient but has also immensely helped different sections of the world come closer socially, economically and culturally. The Computer technology has made it possible to have access to all corners of the world while sitting in a room. Modern technology has put an end to the barriers of time and space. However, unlikely with the remarkable merits of having computers today, due to this the jurisdictional issue has been created in legal system. Jurisdiction is one aspect which is very difficult to determine in transnational transaction over the internet. There was unmanageable ambiguity when courts were subjected to questions pertaining to jurisdiction law and were unable to decide the proper forum to entertain cases involving cyber crime as the cyberspace or virtual world is borderless if we compare it with physical world and that is why it is very difficult to control cybercrime. Through the local machinery we are not able to tackle the problem related with cyber crime because our machinery is not compatible to deal with transnational crimes. The law applicable to the territory is not advanced enough to regulate the cyber crime as their nature is far different from the existing crime. Thus, the global dimension of cyber crime is made it difficult to handle and dealt with. The evolution of internet technology has given us so many advantages to deal with future problems and grow with rapid rate but also it has provided the scope for criminals to commit their crime with least chance of detection. The cyberspace has proved a boon to the deviant behaviour in the society. The concept of cyber crime has gained speed and we are facing great threat of its impact on world society. The human society is become vulnerable to cyber crime due to more and more dependence on technology.

    Cyber crime becomes a global phenomenon and hence the nationwide generalization of crime cannot workable in present scenario. Our understanding and regulation of cyber crime cannot be national but has to be international. We have to enact new laws and prepare preventive and defensive mechanism globally, only then we can able to protect our society from this evil called ‘Cyber Crime’. Therefore, the threat of cyber terrorism throws serious challenge to world and its agencies. The terrorist organizations using technology to spread hatred among people and using it to recruit militants and train them using teaching tools. They are also launching websites which show them how to use weapons make bombs etc.

    5. Characteristics of Cyber Crime

    The Concept of cyber crime is very different from the traditional crime. Also due to the growth of Internet Technology, this crime has gained serious and unfettered attention as compared to the traditional crime. So it is necessary to examine the peculiar characteristics of cyber crime.

    • People with specialized knowledge – Cyber crimes can only be committed through the technology, thus to commit this kind of crime one has to be very skilled in internet and computers and internet to commit such a crime. The people who have committed cyber crime are well educated and have deep understanding of the usability of internet, and that’s made work of police machinery very difficult to tackle the perpetrators of cyber crime.
    • Geographical challenges – In cyberspace the geographical boundaries reduced to zero. A cyber criminal in no time sitting in any part of the world commit crime in other corner of world. For example a hacker sitting in India hack in the system placed in United States.
    • Virtual World –The act of cyber crime takes place in the cyber space and the criminal who is committing this act is physically outside the cyber space. Every activity of the criminal while committing that crime is done over the virtual world.
    • Collection of Evidence - It is very difficult to collect evidence of cyber crime and prove them in court of law due to the nature of cyber crime. The criminal in cyber crime invoke jurisdiction of several countries while committing the cyber crime and at the same time he is sitting some place safe where he is not traceable. 5. Magnitude of crime unimaginable- The cyber crime has the potential of causing injury and loss of life to an extent which cannot be imagined. The offences like cyber terrorism, cyber pornography etc. has wide reach and it can destroy the websites, steal data of the companies in no time.