The Importance of Cyber Law

Malaika Naidu

In the simplest words, Cyber Law is any law that concerns cyberspace. This includes everything related to computers, software, data storage devices, cloud storage and even electronic devices such as ATM machines, biometric devices, health trackers and so on. That explanation alone is quite indicative of why today’s digital world needs strict cyber laws. This article will elaborate on that by introducing you to the purpose of cyber law and its relevance in day to day functions.

Some questions to get you thinking:

How do we identify a cyber threat?
Who do we seek help from in case of a cyber-crime?
What can an individual/organisation do to protect itself?
What rights and responsibilities do we have as netizens?

What is Cyber Law?

Commonly called Internet Law, it lays down a framework of rules that dictate and differentiate right from wrong in the ever-elusive cyber world. These laws cover information access, data privacy, communications, intellectual property, personal privacy and freedom of speech, among others. Using cyber laws, one can seek help and recourse from cybercriminal activities such as data theft, identity theft, credit card fraud, malware attacks, the list goes on.

With the increase in Internet traffic, (which is only going to further rise exponentially) there is bound to be a proportionate increase in the number of illegal activities. Given that the internet is a global phenomenon, the burden of cyber safety falls on the whole word. Interestingly, this leads to one of the biggest challenges of cyber law. Generically speaking ‘Law’ in itself is geographically bound which means the law of Country A can typically be implemented only on the citizens and entities of that country and only within its geographical territory. Internet and technology, on the other hand, are boundless and completely agnostic of geographic boundaries.

So, consider your computer (in India) is infected by a ransomware attack, through a code deployed from a computer in Russia by a person sitting in Dubai. Who do you go to for help?

This is just the beginning of why everyone, individuals and organisation alike, should know cyber laws that can help them seek recourse in the unfortunate event that they become victims of cyber-crime. Imagine, in the time you take to read this article, numerous cyber-crimes would have successfully been executed all over the world.

For how convenient our lives have become with technology and the internet, it has made it that much easier for cybercriminals too! Cybercriminals use computers, with all the developments in tech, for their illegal and malicious activities. What started off as a threat to big companies, banks and governments have now become a real threat to average individuals like you and me.  Some of the major issues covered by Cyber Law are:

Fraud

There’s no denying that we live on the internet. Life as we know it would come to a standstill if we were to wake up to a world with no data connectivity. Naturally, this opens us to vulnerabilities like data theft through malware attacks, financial fraud through phishing emails, and identify theft which has been made even simpler through social media. Any unusual activity in your mail, social media platforms, banking apps, or even your photo editing apps should be reported immediately! Always be vigilant with your information and who you share it with.

Copyright

Every time you download a song without paying for it, you are committing a cyber-crime. This extends to all copyrighted material such as books, movies, photographs, etc. Even downloading unlicensed software is a copyright violation. Here the focus of the law is to protect copyright owners like artists, brands and businesses from unauthorised use of their work.

Defamation

Here comes the infamous argument of free speech and exactly what all can one get away with on the internet. Are we allowed to say anything and everything just because we have a personal account on a social media platform? Overarchingly, defamation is any false claim/ statement made about a person or entity to someone other than the victim in question. We are all well aware how rampant this is in the cyber world. As such, defamation is covered under Tort Law in civil cases and/or IPC in case of criminal cases. However, if the defamatory statement is made through an electronic medium, then the IPC has provisions suitable to tackle the matter in cyberspace.

E-Contracts

“I agree to the terms and conditions” – you’d be surprised what all you end up agreeing to when you accept these terms and conditions. The moment you accept those terms, you are entering a legally binding contract. Now the question arises, if that contract is being written up by the company then it’s probably in their favour, so where does that leave you and protection of your data? Unlike regular contracts that usually have a time frame for which the agreement holds true, such as a rent agreement for 11 months, how long are you bound by an e-contract? Is it possible you’ve given Google permission to track your data forever and ever? Think.

Do we really need to say more?

The issues stated above barely scratch the surface of how little awareness we have about cyber law and how much we really, really need it! For example, we know theft is illegal and we understand the legal repercussions of fine and/or imprisonment if a thief is caught. But do you know if you are or are not in violation of copyright when you use images from Google? When you take a screenshot of a conversation without letting the other person know, and you share this screenshot with someone else, is there possibly a cyber-crime there?

             On the flip side, if personal images from your phone are somehow leaked on the internet, are you aware of how to seek help for the same? Is it even possible to get all those images removed from the internet? Imagine you leave your phone unattended, or if it is stolen, and someone makes purchases through apps on your phone like Myntra or Swiggy… Or even transfers money to their own account, what can you do about it? Can the law protect you in that situation?

Food for thought.

If you’d like to know more about the depth of cyber law and its importance, read the follow-up article “Cyber Law: The Need for a Dedicated Field of Law”. If you have any questions or comments, please do reach out to us. You can also get regular news and updates on cyber law on our Instagram and Facebook pages. Don’t miss out!

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