Crime Branch Advisory
The Nigerian Scam
Byte by Byte
Gopika Vaidya-Kapoor | February 18,
2003 11:20 IST
In the world of cyber crime, evil
bytes are fast replacing whizzing bullets. The Indian authorities
are aware of the fight ahead. But the future does not look optimistic,
Life is about a mix of good and evil.
So is the Internet. For all the good it does us, cyberspace has
its dark sides too. Unlike conventional communities though, there
are no policemen patrolling the information superhighway, leaving
it open to everything from Trojan horses and viruses to cyber stalking,
trademark counterfeiting and cyber terrorism.
Given the unrestricted number of
free Web sites, the Internet is undeniably open to exploitation.
Known as cyber crimes, these activities involve the use of computers,
the Internet, cyberspace and the World Wide Web. "Any criminal
activity that uses a computer either as an instrumentality, target
or a means for perpetuating further crimes comes within the ambit
of cyber crime," says Supreme Court advocate and cyber law
expert Pavan Duggal.
While the worldwide scenario on cyber
crime looks bleak, the situation in India isn't any better. There
are no concrete statistics but, according to Duggal, Indian corporate
and government sites have been attacked or defaced more than 780
times between February 2000 and December 2002.
He believes that despite the Information
Technology Act, 2000, there are still several grey areas that exist
within the law. "The IT Act, 2000, is primarily meant to be
a legislation to promote e-commerce. It is not very effective in
dealing with several emerging cyber crimes like cyber harassment,
defamation, stalking and so on."
Duggal believes that what we need
is dedicated legislation on cyber crime that can supplement the
Indian Penal Code. His views are echoed by Mumbai-based lawyer and
cyber law specialist Prathamesh Popat, who says, "The IT Act,
2000 is not comprehensive enough and doesn't even define the term
'cyber crime'". In fact, the Act cites such acts under a separate
Chapter XI entitled 'Offences', in which various crimes have been
declared penal offences punishable with imprisonment or a fine.
Cases of spam, hacking, cyber stalking
and email fraud are rampant and, although cyber crimes cells have
been set up in major cities, Duggal believes the problem is that
most cases remain unreported due to a lack of awareness.
The good news is that, despite these
limitations, cyber crimes are detected and culprits are being punished.
In October 2002, the Delhi High Court restricted a person from selling
pirated Microsoft software over an Internet auction site. Recently,
Duggal argued and won a case at the Metropolitan Magistrate in New
Delhi, involving an online cheating scam where the accused was charged
with using a stolen credit card to buy products from a Sony India
Private Ltd Web site.
In cities such as Bangalore, New
Delhi and Mumbai, where cyber crime cells do exist, there is potential
for improvement. "Law enforcement agencies are not well-equipped
and oriented about cyber crime yet. There is an immense need for
training, and more cities need to have such cells," says Duggal.
"We need to create special tribunals headed by trained individuals
to deal solely with cyber crimes, but with powers to levy heavier
penalties in exceptional cases," adds Popat. "Unless there
is solid deterrence, cyber crime will rise steeply." There
is also a need for IT-savvy lawyers and judges, as well as training
for government agencies and professionals in computer forensics.
So, when can consumers approach a
cyber crime cell? What are victims to do? And how does one maintain
security online? "Any and every incident of cyber crime involving
a computer or electronic network can be reported to a police station,
irrespective of whether it maintains a separate cell or not,"
says Popat. The aforementioned Chapter XI lists a number of activities
that may be taken to constitute cyber crimes. This includes tampering
with computer source code, hacking, publishing or transmitting any
information in electronic form that is lascivious, securing access
to a protected system, and breach of confidentiality and privacy.
Saileshkumar Zarkar, technical advisor
and network security consultant to the Mumbai Police Cyber crime
Cell, advocates the 5P mantra for online security: Precaution, Prevention,
Protection, Preservation and Perseverance. "Take security seriously,"
he says. "If you protect your customer's data, your employee's
privacy and your own company, then you are doing your job in the
grander scheme of things to regulate and enforce rules on the Net
through our community."
Awareness is important, and any matter
should be reported at once. More importantly, users must try and
save any electronic information trail on their computers. That's
all one can do, then, until laws become more stringent or technology
more advanced. You've been warned.