CYBER LAWS:A REVIEW
The beginning of the 21st century witnessed the birth and growth of the greatest wonders of our time-The Internet. A small project which was started back in 1970s by the US defense department was revolutionized by the introduction of HTML and the World wide web by Tim Berners Lee of CERN. Later on with the introduction of JAVA and with availability of cheaper PCs, the number Internet of Internet users increased exponentially. Data could be transfered from one corner of the world to the other in no time. The world became a “Global Village”. Information-its creation, acquisition, adaptation and dissemination has been the currency of our time. Along with the development of all these a new breed of anti social elements , the Cyber criminals sprouted. Quite often the word hacker is used to refer to such people thereby defaming the real hacker community. Hackers are those people or rather the community that has made all developments in the field.
There are three major classification of hackers:
• The White hats – They break into systems to study the vulnerabilities and to rectify them.
• The Black Hats – Their aim is personal monetary gains or destruction of opponents.
• The Grey hats – Such hackers walk on the thin line separating the blacks and whites, their works are a mixture of both legal and illegal.
With the recent Growth of the IT industry and dependence of man on electronic systems, has made it more vulnerable to crime. The major problem in cyber thefts are that most often the victim doesn’t know what happened. If a physical object is stolen we can feel its absence but if a digital document is stolen we still have a copy and the culprit will have his copy so the victim remains unaware. Cyber crimes extend from using viruses and Trojans to destroy data on another person’s system, stealing data and credit card numbers and even money from accounts to harassing and defaming people and pornography. Everything that has a possibility to fail will fail (Murphy’s law), this is the law that hackers exploit. With the extension of Internet to all walks of life the possibilities have been thoroughly studied by hackers. This changing scenario opened the eyes of the lawmakers.
The Indian Govt. took its first step in the year 2000 by passing the IT ACT 2000, it was based on the UNCITRAL (United Nations Commission on International Trade Law).The Indian Government also declared the year 2000 as the year of e-governance.
What is a Cyber law?
Cyber law encompasses laws relating to:
• Cyber Crimes – Cyber crimes are unlawful acts where the computer is used either as a toolor a target.
• Electronic and Digital Signatures – Electronic signatures are used to authenticate
electronic records. Digital signatures are one type of electronic signature. Digital signatures satisfy three major legal requirements – signer authentication, message authentication and message integrity. The technology and efficiency of digital signatures makes them more trustworthy than hand written signatures.
• Intellectual Property – Intellectual property is refers to creations of the human mind. The facets of intellectual property that relate to cyber space are covered by cyber law.
Fundamentals of Cyber Law These include:
◦ copyright law in relation to computer software, computer source code, websites, cell phone content etc,
◦ software and source code licenses.
◦ trademark law with relation to domain names, meta tags, mirroring, framing, linking etc
◦ semiconductor law which relates to the protection of semiconductor integrated circuits design and layouts,
◦ patent law in relation to computer hardware and software.
Data Protection and Privacy – Data protection and privacy laws aim to achieve a fair
balance between the privacy rights of the individual and the interests of data controllers such as banks, hospitals, email service providers etc. These laws seek to address the challenges to privacy caused by collecting, storing and transmitting data using new technologies.
The IT Act 2000 attempts to change outdated laws and provides ways to deal with cyber crimes. We need such laws so that people can perform purchase transactions over the Net through credit cards without fear of misuse. The Act offers the much-needed legal framework so that information is not denied legal effect, validity or enforceability, solely on the ground that it is in the form of electronic records. In view of the growth in transactions and communications carried out through electronic records, the Act seeks to empower government departments to accept filing, creating and retention of official documents in the digital format. The Act has also proposed a legal framework for the authentication and origin of electronic records / communications through digital signature.
• From the perspective of e-commerce in India, the IT Act 2000 and its provisions contain many positive aspects. Firstly, the implications of these provisions for the e-businesses would be that email would now be a valid and legal form of communication in our country that can be duly produced and approved in a court of law.
• Companies shall now be able to carry out electronic commerce using the legal infrastructure provided by the Act.
• Digital signatures have been given legal validity and sanction in the Act.
• The Act throws open the doors for the entry of corporate companies in the business of being Certifying Authorities for issuing Digital Signatures Certificates.
• The Act now allows Government to issue notification on the web thus heralding e-
• The Act enables the companies to file any form, application or any other document with any office, authority, body or agency owned or controlled by the appropriate Government in electronic form by means of such electronic form as may be prescribed by the appropriate Government.
• The IT Act also addresses the important issues of security, which are so critical to the success of electronic transactions. The Act has given a legal definition to the concept of secure digital signatures that would be required to have been passed through a system of a security procedure, as stipulated by the Government at a later date.
• Under the IT Act, 2000, it shall now be possible for corporates to have a statutory remedy in case if anyone breaks into their computer systems or network and causes damages or copies data. The remedy provided by the Act is in the form of monetary damages, not exceeding Rs. 1 crore.
• Electronic documents are now accepted as evidence in a court of law.
• Electronic cheques are now accepted as a valid means of transaction.
Need for Cyber Law
There are various reasons why it is extremely difficult for conventional law to cope with
cyberspace. Some of these are discussed below.
1. Cyberspace is an intangible dimension that is impossible to govern and regulate usingconventional law.
2. Cyberspace has complete disrespect for jurisdictional boundaries. A person in India could break into a an account hosted on a computer in USA and steal data all within minutes. All he would need is a laptop computer and a cell phone.
3. Cyberspace handles gigantic traffic volumes every second. Billions of emails are
crisscrossing the globe even as we read this, millions of websites are being accessed every minute and billions of dollars are electronically transferred around the world by banks every day.
4. Cyberspace is absolutely open to participation by all without any regard for the distance or the anonymity between them.
5. Cyberspace offers enormous potential for anonymity to its members. Readily available encryption software and stenographic tools that seamlessly hide information within image and sound files ensure the confidentiality of information exchanged between cyber-citizens.
6. Cyberspace offers never-seen-before economic efficiency. Billions of dollars worth of software can be traded over the Internet without the need for any government licenses, shipping and handling charges and without paying any customs duty.
7. Electronic information has become the main object of cyber crime. It is characterized by extreme mobility, which exceeds by far the mobility of persons, goods or other services. International computer networks can transfer huge amounts of data around the globe in a matter of seconds.
8. A software source code worth crores of rupees or a movie can be pirated across the globe within hours of their release.
9. Theft of corporeal information (e.g. books, papers, CD ROMs, floppy disks) is easily covered by traditional penal provisions. However, the problem begins when electronic records are copied quickly, inconspicuously and often via telecommunication facilities. Here the “original” information, so to say, remains in the “possession” of the “owner” and yet information gets stolen.
Our Present Scenario
Looking back after 10 years we can still see the gap that has not yet been filled between the government and the common Indian. Today almost every Indian has access to the Internet, but our government has still outdated sites and it still follows the age old practices for its activities. Philippines was the first country to adopt 100% e- governance. The reason that our country is left back is because there is a lack of qualified personnel at the government level and due to the serious inefficiency of our cyber laws
1. No clear provision for handling of domain name issues. They are presently covered by legal norms applicable to intellectual properties such as trademarks
2. Cyber theft, cyber stalking, cyber harassment and cyber defamation are presently not covered under the act
3. Jurisdiction problems are likely to arise as the act applies to both Indians and foreign citizens
4. The law is now covered under civil procedure, making the enforcement process slow. This deters companies from approaching the cyber crime cell
5. Some definitions in the act are vague and can cause problems to the plaintiff
6. The act does not lay down parameters for its implementation Improvements needed
1. The act needs amendment for handling domain name issues and related concerns such as cyber squatting
2. These crimes need to have specific provisions in the act to enable the police to take quick action
3. There should be clear briefs on how the act will apply to any offence, and how action will be taken against any person who has committed the crime outside India
4. If the law is covered under criminal procedure, the process could be faster
5. Definitions, prescriptions of punishment and certain provisions need specific amendment
6. Law enforcement officials need to be trained for effective enforcement In spite of having a cyber law there are still many reported and even more unreported cases of cyber crimes. The major setback that the Indian cyber law faces is the lack of trained and skilled personnel in the Law and Order and the justice departments to investigate such cases of cyber crimes.
Another great set back is the average Internet user, who is not careful enough to protect his/her data and system from being hacked and misused. We also have a major role to play, avoid pirated software and movies,pornography, misuse of emails and in case you fall victim to a cyber crime report it immediately to the cyber cell. Then only the government will realize the vast amount of cyber crimes in our country and lets hope that it will open the eyes of our law makers.