Lessons from Law
Cyber Crimes have set in a debate as to whether a new legislation is needed to deal with them or existing legal regime is flexible enough to effectively deal with this new form of criminality .There is a school of thought that believes that Cyber-crimes are not in any way dissimilar to the ordinary crimes like trespass, larceny or conspiracy with a difference that a computer has been used as a medium or instrument for commission of crime. The other school gives much credence to unique nature of the emerging technologies and unique set of challenges, unknown to the existing criminal jurisprudence ; such as nature and scope of Cyber-crimes , intent , and difficulty in locating the offender, jurisdiction and enforcement . It contends that a new comprehensive legislation is needed to deal with the Cyber-crimes.
Generally the countries that have shown concern to combat Cyber-crimes have adopted two pronged strategy — to approach computer crime both as traditional crime committed by / on high tech computers and as crime unique in nature requiring new legal framework.
The phenomenal growth of Internet has provided new vista for computer crimes. In a survey of 643 computer security practitioners in the U.S. , seventy per cent reported a variety of serious computer security breaches other than the most common one’s of computer viruses , laptop theft or employee ‘ net abuse ‘ For example , theft of proprietary information financial fraud , system penetration from outsiders, denial of service attacks and sabotage of data or networks . Ninety per cent of respondents (primarily large corporations and Government agencies) detected computer security breaches within the last twelve months … seventy – four percent acknowledged financial losses due to computer breaches … and forty
– two per cent admitted to have suffered loss totalled at $ 265,589.940 and the average total loss over the last three years was $ 120,240,180.
Responding to an annual security survey, twenty companies admitted to have suffered a loss exceeding $1 million as a result of computer break ins, software piracy alone amounts to $ 2.8 billion per year. , cellular phone companies lost around $ 650 million in 1996 due to change in software mode in wireless phones by crooks to make free calls.
Another survey conducted on electronic bulletin board service providers reported that 69 % of the respondents perceived significant security threats and half of the respondents admitted theft of property of S 10.000 or more. What is worst, 18 % of the respondents alleged that the computer frauds were committed by a trusted party or insider as against 10 % respondents who blamed outsider for fraud.
The present scenario of Cyber-crimes is summed up in the following words:
Amidst the surging excitement and interest, however, runs a deep thread of ambivalence toward connecting to the Internet. The Internet’s evil twin is the home of “Bad Guys ” — hackers , crackers , snackers , stalkers , phone preaks and other creepy web crawlers . Business fear that the Infobahn could suddenly veer into the highway to Hell.
A new generation of crimes has cropped up by the advent of Internet. Computer hacking, software piracy. Internet paedophilia, industrial espionage, password breaking, spoofing, telecommunication frauds, email bombing, spamming , pornography and the availability of illicit unlicensed products and services are offences that have already made their mark . “New Problems emerging on the scene include, credit card front Cyber terrorism, Cyber laundering and criminal use of secure Internet communications. The present weak electronic system of payment without adequate safeguards is posing a serious risk of unauthorised withdraws from banks and counter money laundering operations. Software piracy is a boom business and video and phonographic industries are sinking day by day globally.
It is now well established that huge amounts of money are siphoned off by the computer literate thieves either by damaging computer system or by stealing marketable information or by doing any other obnoxious activity facilitated by network. The question arises: what is a computer crime? Neither Indian Penal Code nor IT Act defines it. The recent amendments in the Indian Penal Code make certain acts punishable without directly referring to them as computer crimes. However, to define computer crime has experienced many difficulties in other jurisdictions also because there is a considerable disagreement on the ambit and scope of the definition. Furthermore, the phrase “computer crime ” or ” computer misuse ” has no precise definition and tends to cover a multitude of computer related offences ranging from unauthorised access to computers and computer stored material , causing damage to computer held information , trafficking in passwords and hacking – friendly technology , manufacturing and selling pirated copies of software and transmission of pornographic material . The term “computer crime “is invariably used with “computer misuse”. “IT Crime “or” Cyber-crime “This is the reason that instead of using the expression computer crime, the current trend is to increase computer related crime.