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Frequently Used Cyber Crimes

Unauthorized access to computer systems or networks

This activity is commonly referred to as hacking. The Indian law has however given a different connotation to the term hacking, so we will not use the term "unauthorized access" interchangeably with the term "hacking".

Theft of information contained in electronic form

This includes information stored in computer hard disks, removable storage media etc.

Email bombing

Email bombing refers to sending a large number of emails to the victim resulting in the victim's email account (in case of an individual) or mail servers (in case of a company or an email service provider) crashing. In one case, a foreigner who had been residing in Simla, India for almost thirty years wanted to avail of a scheme introduced by the Simla Housing Board to buy land at lower rates. When he made an application it was rejected on the grounds that the 169 schemes was available only for citizens of India. He decided to take his revenge. Consequently he sent thousands of mails to the Simla Housing Board and repeatedly kept sending e-mails till their servers crashed.

Data diddling

This kind of an attack involves altering raw data just before it is processed by a computer and then changing it back after the processing is completed. Electricity Boards in India have been victims to data diddling programs inserted when private parties were computerizing their systems.

Salami attacks

These attacks are used for the commission of financial crimes. The key here is to make the alteration so insignificant that in a single case it would go completely unnoticed. E.g. a bank employee inserts a program, into the bank's servers, that deducts a small amount of money (say Rs. 5 a month) from the account of every customer. No account holder will probably notice this unauthorized debit, but the bank employee will make a sizable amount of money every month.

To cite an example, an employee of a bank in USA was dismissed from his job. Disgruntled at having been supposedly mistreated by his employers the man first introduced a logic bomb into the bank's systems.

Logic bombs are programmes, which are activated on the occurrence of a particular predefined event. The logic bomb was programmed to take ten cents from all the accounts in the bank and put them into the account of the person whose name was alphabetically the last in the bank's rosters. Then he went and opened an account in the name of Ziegler. The amount being withdrawn from each of the accounts in the bank was so insignificant that neither any of the account holders nor the bank officials noticed the fault.

It was brought to their notice when a person by the name of Zygler opened his account in that bank. He was surprised to find a sizable amount of money being transferred into his account every Saturday.

Denial of Service attack

This involves flooding a computer resource with more requests than it can handle. This causes the resource (e.g. a web server) to crash thereby denying authorized users the service offered by the resource. Another variation to a typical denial of service attack is known as a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack wherein the perpetrators are many and are geographically widespread. It is very difficult to control such attacks. The attack is initiated by sending excessive demands to the victim's computer(s), exceeding the limit that the victim's servers can support and making the servers crash. Denial-of-service attacks have had an impressive history having, in the past, brought down websites like Amazon, CNN, Yahoo and eBay!

Virus / worm attacks

Viruses are programs that attach themselves to a computer or a file and then circulate themselves to other files and to other computers on a network. They usually affect the data on a computer, either by altering or deleting it. Worms, unlike viruses do not need the host to attach themselves to. They merely make functional copies of themselves and do this repeatedly till they eat up all the available space on a computer's memory. 170 The VBS_LOVELETTER virus (better known as the Love Bug or the ILOVEYOU virus) was reportedly written by a Filipino undergraduate.

In May 2000, this deadly virus beat the Melissa virus hollow - it became the world's most prevalent virus. It struck one in every five personal computers in the world. When the virus was brought under check the true magnitude of the losses was incomprehensible. Losses incurred during this virus attack were pegged at US $ 10 billion.

The original VBS_LOVELETTER utilized the addresses in Microsoft Outlook and emailed itself to those addresses. The e-mail, which was sent out, had "ILOVEYOU" in its subject line. The attachment file was named "LOVE-LETTER-FORYOU. TXT.vbs". The subject line and those who had some knowledge of viruses, did not notice the tiny .vbs extension and believed the file to be a text file conquered people wary of opening e-mail attachments. The message in the e-mail was "kindly check the attached LOVELETTER coming from me".

Since the initial outbreak over thirty variants of the virus have been developed many of them following the original by just a few weeks. In addition, the Love Bug also uses the Internet Relay Chat (IRC) for its propagation. It e-mails itself to users in the same channel as the infected user. Unlike the Melissa virus this virus does have a destructive effect. Whereas the Melissa, once installed, merely inserts some text into the affected documents at a particular instant during the day, VBS_LOVELETTER first selects certain files and then inserts its own code in lieu of the original data contained in the file. This way it creates ever-increasing versions of itself. Probably the world's most famous worm was the Internet worm let loose on the Internet by Robert Morris sometime in 1988. The Internet was, then, still in its developing years and this worm, which affected thousands of computers, almost brought its development to a complete halt. It took a team of experts almost three days to get rid of the worm and in the meantime many of the computers had to be disconnected from the network.

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