Advocate - Pallavi Parmar
The term “Cybercrime” is often defined as a crime committed using the computer as an object; however, Cybercrime is not defined in any regulation in India. Perhaps the aforementioned understanding may seem worthy of tweaks upon digging deeper into history.
The crimes of similar nature and tone existed much before masses got hands on the computer. It would seem to connect back to the era of telephones. What else would one call those telephone hackings and making illegal “free long-distance phone calls” which were being made since the 1970s? Ever since cybercrime possesses a sense of committing a crime using ‘electronics as a vehicle’ within it.
Cybercrime has come a long way now, and every decade has witnessed and contributed to it’s tremendous and noteworthy advancements. Today’s definition of it is “any criminal activity that involves a computer, networked device or a network.” There are many reasons found behind committing cybercrime; however, financial benefits remain the primary effect of it followed by sexual exploitation. In one of the reports by the National Crime Records Bureau, Fraudulent transactions and sexual exploitation were the most reported cyber-crimes in India in 2017.
Cybercrime is feeding on today’s dense and rapidly growing transactional cyberworld with e-business, e-commerce and various other ‘e-methodologies’. Cybercrimes are becoming digitally-sophisticated progressively. People, acts and methodologies are getting increasingly disruptive as we seek facilities. A few highly penetrated methodologies of the present times are:
Cybercrime may be categorized in various ways keeping it’s multiple aspects at the pivot such as the technology used to commit it, the technology used at, the object used at, benefits or achievable, used methodology while committing the crime and many more. As apparent, the lists would vary of their content or items and length significantly. We would create a more straightforward‘ subject of the crime’ list to get the hang of it.
This list combines crimes against individuals or their properties:
This list also extends to crimes against individual property like computer vandalism and transmitting a virus, trespassing online and intellectual property, internet time thefts etc.
This list combines crimes committed towards organizations. Such crimes primarily have financial benefits or wreaking havoc at the core:
This list combines crimes having adverse effects on the society directly or indirectly:
It needs Cyber Laws to cope up with such seen and unseen complexities of the cyberspace, to cover things under its ambit with far-reaching jurisdiction, rather global, if possible. In India, cyber laws are mentioned in the Information Technology Act, 2000 (“IT Act”). The IT Act came into effect on October 17, 2000, with the primary objective to provide legal recognition to electronic commerce.
The IT Act was India’s first legislation on the Technology foray; thus, a few sections of it were debated to be diluted and lenient with glaring omissions along with IT-based cases being worked upon with Indian Penal Code (IPC) rather than the IT Act. This called for the need for an amendment based upon comprehensive discussions across industries, experts and advisory groups. This consolidated amendment came into effect on February 5, 2009, with the name of Information Technology Amendment Act, 2008 (ITAA 2008).
There are various sections of the IT Act, 2000, which cover cybercrime to a large extent and make Cyber Law. As the Cyber Laws are introduced in the Act, they provide legal recognition to e-documents, a framework to support e-filing and e-commerce transactions along with providing a legal framework to mitigate, check cyber crimes.
In a nutshell, the easiest and mentioned structure to understand these sections would be in sequence of what kind of cybercrime the particular section enforces upon, what are the applications of the specific section, what are its benefits, and penalties or punishments awarded to those who do not adhere to the laws.
With the IT (Amendment) Act, 2008 (ITAA), India became technologically neutral by adopting electronic signatures as a valid mode of signing any document. It is far broader in the realm which covers biometrics and other forms of signing documents electronically. Further, to secure the data and information flow on the internet along with promoting eCommerce & e-governance, the ITAA (amended Act) has empowered the Central Government in Section 84A to prescribe encryption modes or methods.
A few more significant changes were brought in by the ITAA, such as:
The amended Act differentiates between “contravention” and “offence” by introducing the element of mens rea for an offence (Section 43 for contraventions and Section 66 of the Act for the crime). There is no ceiling limit prescribed for compensation under Section 43 of the ITAA 2008, which was specified one crore rupees in the ITA.
The ITAA added two significant definitions to the ITA, namely “Communication device” in Section 2(ha) and “intermediary” in Section 2(w). This particular change or amendment eliminates ambiguity and brings many well-defined electronic devices in the ambit of the Act.
Two newly added sections – 7(A) and 10(A) – reinforce equivalence of paper-based documents with electronic documents. Also, Section 7(A) enforces audit of electronic documents as necessary wherever paper-based documents as needed to be audited by law. Section 10(A) deliberates enforceability and legal validity on electronically formed contracts. These provisions are introduced to bring clarity and strengthening the legal principle in Section 4 of the ITA.
In Section 46(1A) under the ITA, the power of the adjudicating officer was limited in cases where the claim does not exceed 5 crores. With the ITA, the jurisdiction shall now vest with the competent court for matters beyond 5 crores. This introduced another forum for cyber contraventions’ adjudication.
The composition of Cyber Appellate Tribunal (CAT) has also been changed by the ITA. Now, the CAT would comprise of a Chairperson and number of members as Central Government may appoint. Since it has become denser, the decision-making process allows more objectivity with Section 52(D), which states that the decision shall be taken by majority.
The ITA included many cybercrimes which had no expression in the ITA such as Section 66(A), Section 66(B), Section 66(C), Section 66(D) and Section 66(E) for sending of offensive or false messages, receiving stolen computer resource, identity theft, cheating by personation and violation of privacy respectively.
A new Section 66 F has been amended which covers acts committed with intent to threaten unity, integrity, security or sovereignty of India or cause terror by DoS attack and many such actions mentioned in detail. This section prescribes punishment which may extend to imprisonment for life. Furthermore, the sentence for hacking (Section 66) has been increased and there are many such changes for different ones, even in Section 67.
Section 67(A) has been amended with an offence regarding publishing sexually explicit content with both imprisonment and monetary penalty. Section 67(B) now punishes crimes of child pornography, the child’s sexually explicit act or conduct.
After the amendment, Section 69(B) deliberates on the Central government power to appoint an agency to monitor and collect internet traffic data or information generated ,transmitted, received, or stored in any computer resource in order to enhance its cybersecurity and to identify, analyze, and prevent intrusion or spreading computer contaminant in the country.
There are various safety or precautionary checklists mentioned on the website of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) of the Government of India. Those are sufficient to prevent or safeguard one from falling prey to cybercriminals. Apart from those, the internet is full of suggestions and tips: including safe browsing, strong passwords, cautious form filling, secure mobile devices, and many more: to remain safe in our daily lives. It is always suggested to remain vigilant and careful against cybercrimes due to the very nature of it. At times the complex technology, negligence coupled with the quick and easy loss of evidence make it difficult to get an instant hold on the cybercriminals.
As privacy and security in the digital world is called a myth, a society that is free of crimes is too perfect to be only in illusion. Especially, a society to be free of cybercrimes in the age of such competition, next-generation internet dependency would take a lot more than just awareness, precautions or a golden heart. It needs tenacious efforts from the governing authorities, the regulators and enforcement stakeholders to ensure that the growth of the technology remains healthy and that it is used in obedience, ethically and for the good of the people.