Cyber World and Cyber Crimes


Charles Babbage[1] endowed the human mankind with one of the brilliant inventions, that is computer. According to the Oxford[2] definition computer is a device for processing information at high speeds, by electronic method. In the present era no one is alien to the word ‘computer’. We can feel the presence of computer everywhere it could be a local shopping center, computer center, banks and many more other spheres. Our every activity, whether it is at home or in business, is getting more and more efficient because of it. Many countries have taken the advantage of computerization and have steadily developed. In our day to day life we can see that most of the time we are surrounded by prefix ‘e’ (which stands for electronic), for instance, ‘e-reservation’, ‘e-banking’, ‘e-mail’ etc. With the passage of time, the Internet has become the major platform which has changed the conventional way of doing business and communication. People are entering into this ‘Global Village’[3] (term coined by Marshall McLuhan) whether it is business men for expanding their business or investor investing in the growing market or students, researchers for getting information.

The world in which current era of civilization is living is influenced by technology in every sphere. Machines- computers, computer systems and computer networks are the part of technology driven world. This world is unique in the sense that it creates a beautiful interface between hardware and software. It is the amalgamation of hardware, a tangible component and software, an intangible component which has created a world straight out of science fiction. It is forever evolving and works 24×7 without even pausing for a second. Geographical and man made boundaries is not known to this artificially created world. Tremendous change can be seen after the advent of Information or Computer Age and also it has upset the way of consumers and business interaction. It can be said that the importance of Internet is growing manifold and gradationally it has emerged as an analogous form of life and living. But unfortunately it is gradually leading its users to new forms of exploitation. Internet users are becoming vulnerable as their confidentiality is at stake, which they share at the time of financial and business transaction, infringement of intellectual property right is also the other type of attack by cyber criminals. Traditional crimes such as defamation, slander, forgery, criminal intimidation, breach of trust, obscenity are getting a new platform in the way of the internet to expand and hence it gets facilitated.

With the advent of Information Age or Computer Age, we see the increase use in technology which means spreading of cyber vulnerabilities like viruses or other malicious software. Victims of cyber crimes can be either individual, form of crimes against them are cyber stalking, distributing pornography, Email spoofing or Organization, which can be a firm, a company or a group of individuals where cyber offenders hack government websites, military websites or circulate propaganda which is also termed as ‘Cyber Terrorism’, also they distribute pirated software and attack can also be on the property, for instance stealing person’s bank details, Netrespass etc. The cyber criminals attack the society at large by pornography, trafficking, online gambling and by many more ways.

Cyberspace: a virtual reality realm

Technology has proven to be a great leveler. It has created ‘machine-clones’ in the form of computers- a high speed data processing device performing arithmetic, logical and memory functions by manipulating optical, magnetic or electrical impulses. The power of one ‘machine-clone’ is the power of all connected ‘machine clones’, which may be termed as ‘network-of-networks’ or Internet. This dynamic virtual space created by the networks of ‘machine clones’ has been termed as cyberspace. Therefore, while the Internet is a fact, cyberspace is a fiction. It is an intangible space created by the medium of the Internet[4]. It has no physical attributes yet one can see it, hear it and interact with it.[5]

The word ‘Cyberspace’ was first used by William Gibson in his science fiction book Neuromancer, published in 1984. It depicted the story of a hacker (of databases), named Case whose job was to steal databases for a fee. Gibson portrayed cyberspace as a three-dimensional virtual landscape created by networks of computers. Neuromancer, though a difficult book to read and comprehend, nevertheless caught the imagination of the public and with the result, it was in 1986, English Dictionaries introduced the new word ‘cyberspace’. The New Oxford Dictionary of English defines ‘Cyberspace’ as the notional environment in which communication over computer networks occurs.[6] It is a virtual medium.[7]

 The word ‘cyber’ as a prefix was first used in the English word ‘Cybernetics’, which is taken from a Greek word Kubernetes meaning ‘steersman’.[8] Cybernetics is the science of communication and automatic control systems in both machines and living things. This term was introduced and popularized by the U.S. mathematician Norbert Wiener in a book with that title published in 1948. Cybernetics is an interdisciplinary subject and includes neurophysiologists, psychologists and computer engineers.[9]

Increase in Cyber Crimes

The growth of cyber crimes can be because cyber criminals operate from safe havens and their chances of being caught are minimal. And it is cost-effective for cybercriminals. Also enough measures are not being taken by many organizations and institutions to secure the financial transaction.

Increase in cyber crimes is because of various factors like the advent of technologies, technological complexities, no sufficient evidence and many more. Today everyone has access to a computer system. The unauthorized access to a computer system is made possible by installing technologies like key loggers that can steal the access codes, voice recorders etc. that can bypass firewalls and get into the system.

The Internet is border-less. One can obtain information or do business from any part of the world. This is raising legal issues that are required to be dealt with globally.[10] In the young case[11], prisoners in Connecticut were sent to prison in Virgina. Two newspapers had written articles condemning this practice and about the treatment meted out to the prisoners in Virgina. This had some defamatory comments about Young, the prison warden in Virgina. He filed a suit. Objections were taken that the court in Virgina had no jurisdiction. The District Court held that the court had jurisdiction, but the US Court 4th Circuit reversed it. The appellate court held that the newspapers neither targeted their websites for Virgina audience nor had they posted the articles for them and merely because anyone could download the articles from the website, it did not give jurisdiction to the courts in Virgina. In another case, Pettigrew[12] was accused of committing a burglary and handling stolen goods. He was also found with new notes that had come from a bundle of stolen notes. The prosecution produced a computer printout from the Bank of England. It tended to prove that the notes found in the possession of the accused came from the bundle of notes, stolen in that burglary. The court of appeal did not admit these computer printouts on the ground that no witness could claim first hand knowledge of the various contents and hence it was hearsay.

Operating systems, on which computers work, are composed of millions of binary code. And because of human fallacy many a times some inconsistency occurs, of which cyber criminals take advantage to penetrate into the system. The main ground for staring any investigation is collecting evidence and in cybercrime, it is difficult to go beyond territorial extent and collect data. Therefore, cyber crimes prove to be a safe haven for cyber criminals.

Hart in his work, The Concept of Law has said “Human beings are vulnerable, so the rule of law is required to protect them”. Applying this to the cyber space we may say that computers are vulnerable, so the rule of law is required to protect and safeguard them against cyber crime.[13]

Other reasons for why computer system is open to attack are that in a small space it has the capacity to store huge data. People utilize this unique characteristic and hence they store their information in a computer system which becomes vulnerable. By secretly implanted logic bomb, key loggers that can steal access codes, advanced voice recorders’ retina imagers etc. that can fool biometric systems and bypass firewalls can be utilized to get past many a security system. Also human being is negligent in protecting computer systems which in turn provide a cyber criminal to gain access.

[1] Also known as “Father of the Computer”, the principles behind the modern computer were conceived by him in the 19th century.

[2] Oxford concise Encyclopedia, oxford university press, 2006

[3] According to Oxford dictionary meaning ‘global village’ means the whole world, looked at as a single community that is connected by electronic communication systems

[4] The New Oxford Dictionary of English defines Internet as an international computer network providing electronic mail and information from computers in educational institutions, government agencies, and industry, accessible to the general public via modem links.

[5] Vakul Sharma, An Overview of Cyber Law, pp-05 Online certificate course material for The Indian Law Institute, New Delhi-2013  

[6] (Last Visited: December 06, 2015)

[7] Ibid                                                                                          

[8] (Last Visited: December 31, 2016)

[9] Ibid            

[10] Singh, Yatinder, Cyber Laws, 4th Ed, 2010, Universal Law Publlishing Co. Ltd, p-12

[11] Dow Jones & Company Inc. v. Gutnick, [2002] HCA 56

[12] R. v Pettigrew, (1980) 71 Crl AR 39

[13] Supra 11

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