In 2017, 2 billion data records were compromised,
followed by more than 4.5 billion records in just the first half of 2018.
With every passing year, and at an accelerated pace since 2010, cybercriminals are using more advanced and scalable tools to breach privacy. And they are clearly getting results!
In the last 2 years, we see some cyber-crimes becoming more prevalent than others. Cyber safety organisations around the world fear that the growth of cyber-crimes in just these 6 months of 2019 will surpass the numbers of 2017 and 2018 put together. Give that a serious thought for a minute.
Cyber-crimes grow and evolve with consumer behaviour trends. So, the trending cyber-crimes complement our usage patterns of the internet and technology. In the last decade, emails and chat rooms used to be the most common methods of communication online. This decade, we see a shift to mobile apps like WhatsApp and Viber and social platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. Naturally, we see a shift from the number of email related frauds to social media frauds. Not to say that email frauds don’t happen anymore, it’s just that today we are more vulnerable on social media. And the numbers support this claim.
In 2018 alone, social media fraud increased by 43% from the year prior. Similarly, fraud in mobile channels has grown significantly in the last few years. In the same year, almost 70% of cyber-crimes originated or took form through vulnerabilities in mobile channels. A white paper, ‘Current State of Cybercrime – 2019’ by RSA Security says that the ease of use of such channels, absence of usage fees and other such simplicities will only help this trend grow exponentially.
So, what do we need to look out for in 2019?
Phishing, as the name suggests, is looking or seeking private information under a guise. This usually happens through emails, instant messaging or text messages. The attacker masquerades as a trusted entity in order to hook and procure information such as passwords and PINs. One of the most efficient cyber-crimes, phishing is only growing in its complexity, ensuring its success further. To add to the problem, phishing kits are easily available on the dark net. Meaning anyone with basic technical knowledge can purchase the kit and execute the attack. Once a phishing attack is successful, there is very little recourse for the victim.
Remote Access Threats
Basically, remote access is to gain unauthorised administrator access to a device, such as a computer or smart TV, from a remote network. This means the device being attacked and the device that is executing the attack are on separate networks. In 2018, the biggest remote access attack was cryptojacking, which targeted cyptocurrency owners. Now with Internet of Things and connected homes, we have only made ourselves even more vulnerable. These attacks can happen on any device connected to a network with open ports. Most common devices to come under this attack are computers, cameras, smart TVs, Network-Attached Storage (NAS) devices, alarm systems and home appliances.
We’ve started using mobile phones for everything from communication to banking. We are comfortable accessing and/or storing sensitive information on our mobile phones without proper protection of any sort, unlike how almost all of us have a firewall or antivirus on our computers. Think about all the apps that have access to data on your phones. Have you done your due diligence before downloading a random photo editing app? Aside from apps, another way attackers exploit our phones is through the two-step authentication system. While being one of the most widely used cybersecurity tools, it has actually increased our security risk in case a phone is stolen or lost.
How? Many platforms, including Facebook and Gmail, allow you to login on a fresh device using a code that will be sent to your phone. Similar vulnerabilities arise with OTPs. So, while this system adds a layer of security, it also makes you vulnerable in case your phone is stolen.
Artificial Intelligence (AI): Future of Tech
Every development in technology can be used for good and bad, as the user may see fit. Industries are working on cybersecurity systems perfected with AI, while hackers are using the same technology for themselves to become more effective. It doesn’t help that the qualities of AI inherently serve malicious purposes. AI systems are easy to create and separate the human element. Meaning, the hacker gets the advantage of being disconnected from the crime while still bearing the fruit. As we continue to pour millions into the development of AI, we’re simultaneously making it easier for cybercriminals. Think about the robots that are being developed for the medical industry – how do we prevent that robot from being hacked and turning violent instead of helpful?
Or even chatbots? Airline companies, banking websites, almost all e-commerce websites, and even educational organisations have chatbots on their websites. We’ve become comfortable chatting with a bot and often share privileged information when seeking help from the chatbot. How do you confirm that the chatbot hasn’t been compromised by a hacker? Are you mindful of what information you may be sharing with a hacker or do you share whatever information is asked for hoping to get help with whatever your grievance was?
Technology is both a friend and a foe. The expansive penetration of internet accessibility has only added to our conveniences and our problems. Be vigilant and do your due diligence when interacting through technology, straight away from the moment you go live on the internet.
What are some of the steps you take to protect yourself online?
VPN when using a public Wi-Fi?
Anti-virus on your phone?
Covering your webcam when not in use?
Turning off appliances/electronics when not in use?
Take a minute and think over your safety and security online – it is critical and completely in your hands!!!
There is no doubt that cybercrime is an ongoing and a very real threat. The first thing that comes to mind when most people read cybercrime is financial fraud and data leaks. However, cybercrime is constantly evolving and growing like a beast that seems untameable. Every time we think we have seen the worst or the most damaging internet crime, a new threat surfaces to take the digital world by storm.
Now let’s be brutally honest, if a hacker, or any other cyber-criminal, worth her salt decides to take on an average person, there is absolutely nothing that will actually stop them. However, you may deter the hacker and create obstacles that could potentially save you. Either she will go looking for an easier target or even if she persists your countermeasures will give you enough time to protect your data and save yourself from becoming a victim.
If it’s an ex or a disgruntled acquaintance with a personal agenda, well, let’s deal with that later.
So, how do you deter a cyber-criminal from coming after you? Much like in real life you would use a lock on your front door or an alarm in your car, there are simple measures and practices that can help protect you against at least the basic and most common cyber threats.
The Three-Step Plan is – (a) recognise cyberthreats, (b) take basic precautions to protect yourself, and (c) identify whom to ask for help if you become a victim of cybercrime. Let’s break down the precautions.
1) Go Beyond Just an Anti-Virus
First of all, get a paid package! Free versions are not up to date and CANNOT give you real time protection. Anti-virus softwares regularly update their algorithms and these are available only in the paid versions. Even though anti-viruses protect your online activity, they are not sufficient for complete protection.
2) Create Passwords Stronger than Hercules
Right off the top, do NOT use the same or similar passwords across websites. You can’t have Avengers123 for your email and Avengers456 for your Facebook. Figure out a system that allows you to create unique passwords for each login. Ideally, the pattern should have letters (LARGE and small caps) along with numbers and symbols.
Ex: Website Name – number of letters in website’s name – a symbol – end with ZXC (random string of characters – constant in every password).
So, you would get:
Gmail: gmail5@ZXC / Facebook: facebook8@ZXC / Quora: quora5@ZXC
TIP: Remember the logic and not the password!
Or use a good password generator.
3. Manage Social Media Settings
Clearly mark what information on your profiles is private and what is public. Always be mindful of the data you share. For instance, if you post your pet’s name or reveal your mother’s maiden name, you might expose the answers to two common security questions.
4. Make Your Wi-Fi Impenetrable as Fort Knox
A good starting point is to have a strong password and a virtual private network (VPN) when using public Wi-Fi. A VPN will encrypt data leaving your device till it reaches its destination. If anyone intercepts the data, it won’t be decipherable. Similarly, never leave your hotspot open without a sturdy password and share your hotspot only with those you trust.
5. Update Software Faster Than Seasons Change
Your operating systems (Windows, iOS, Linux, among others) and internet security softwares must be updated immediately when alerted. Cybercriminals often exploit these bugs and lapses to gain access to your computer or computer network. Patching these bugs makes you a less likely victim of cyber-crime.
These are just the tip of the iceberg and everyday doable precautions that will make you less vulnerable to cyber fraud and cyber-crime. Depending on the sensitivity of information you hold or the value you stake on your data, you will have to accordingly amp up your security systems.
To be honest, fighting cybercrime is everybody’s business. Think of it as an obligation to do your part in the fight against cybercrime. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us. And comment below with other precautions you take. In part two of this article, we’ll incorporate some of your suggestions!
Simple precautions taken by you, can collectively make the internet a little safer.
Asian School of Cyber Laws is an organisation that strives to make education easily accessible and efficiently delivered. Our journey began in 1999, even before the Information Technology Act (2000) came into effect. Bringing together the fields of Information Technology and Law, our courses are carefully crafted to serve members of the legal fraternity as well as individuals from other fields such as business, banking, law enforcement, CA, CS, engineering, marketing and more. Over the last 20 years, we’ve shared our knowledge with over 75,000 students.
In a world where almost all our interactions are digital, and online safety is non-negotiable, people still tend to share ATM pins with others, write down passwords, and leave themselves logged in on computers that are not theirs. Some even continue to use QWERTY as a password!
ASCL has been ceaselessly working towards remedying this and strives to make cyber education as simple to comprehend as 2+2=4.
All our courses are for a duration of 6-months with digital course material and online examinations. Here’s a brief overview:
Diploma in Cyber Law (DCL)
An introduction to the field of cyber law, DCL covers the basics that everyone must know about the laws that govern cyber space. The course will help you navigate real situations like leaked photos, credit card fraud, hacked emails or social media accounts, and other such real cyber issues. The syllabus covers the fundamentals of cyber law with actual case examples.
Cyber Crime Prosecution and Defence (CCPD)
CCPD will help you navigate the judicial and investigative framework under the Information Technology Act, 2000. This tailor-made course for lawyers and law enforcement officers, covers relevant entities, terms and concepts with cyber-crime case laws and global cyber-crime law all from the perspective of presenting cases in prosecution or defence. An expert level course that requires participants to have at least completed their graduation, it’s also available to law students who have completed 3 years of the integrated 5-year LLb program.
Digital Evidence Specialist (DES)
Digital evidence is becoming increasingly relevant in conventional and unconventional crimes such as murder, adultery, data theft, matrimony scams, cyber stalking, online banking fraud and many more. This is only natural given we use the internet for everything from communication to buying groceries! This course covers the various types of digital evidence and standard operating procedures using case files. It emphasises on the collection and the subsequent production of such evidence in a court of law. Participants need to complete their under-grad to apply for DES. It’s also available to law students who have completed 3 years of the integrated 5 year LLb program.
Internet Investigation Specialist (IIS)
With the rapid growth in cyber-crimes, internet investigators are a growing breed. This course starts from the basics of the internet and the World Wide Web, followed by tools, tips and tricks to conduct digital investigation. From emails to screenshots, browser history to social media activity, including cloud safety and bitcoins – IIS will help you achieve Sherlock’s level of attention to detail and crime solving ability!
There you have it. To start your journey in the cyber world with ASCL, click here! The best part is – we’re constantly looking at feedback to develop fresh courses that could fill gaps in the current system. Soon, we will be offering state of the art courses in Intellectual Property Law too. Stay tuned for more updates!
Endpoint security — Network Security — Application Security — Incident Response — Regulatory Compliance — Data Protection — Training — Testing — Contingency Planning
1. End-point security
Endpoint security requires that each computing device on the network comply with certain standards before network access is granted.
Endpoints include laptops, desktops computers, smart phones, and other communication devices, tablets, specialized equipment such as bar code readers, point of sale (POS) terminals etc.
End-point security encompasses:
- Host-based firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and intrusion prevention systems
- Host-based anti-virus systems, anti-malware systems, anti-spyware systems, anti-rootkit systems, anti-phishing systems, pop-up blockers, spam detection systems, unified threat management systems
- SSL Virtual Private Networks
- Host Patch and Vulnerability Management
- Memory protection programs
- Control over memory devices, Bluetooth Security
- Password Management
- Security for Full Virtualization Technologies
- Media Sanitization
- Securing Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Systems
2. Network Security
Network security relates to the cyber security aspects of computer networks and network-accessible resources.
Network Security encompasses:
- Secure authentication and identification of network users, hosts, applications, services and resources
- Network-based firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and intrusion prevention systems
- Network-based anti-virus systems, anti-malware systems, anti-spyware systems, anti-rootkit systems, unified threat management systems
- Network Patch and Vulnerability Management
- Virtual Private Networks
- Securing Wireless Networks
- Computer Security Log Management
- Enterprise Telework and Remote Access Security
- Securing WiMAX Wireless Communications
- Network Monitoring
- Network Policy Management
3. Application Security
Application security relates to the cyber security aspects of applications and the underlying systems.
Application attacks include:
- Input Validation attacks such as buffer overflow, cross-site scripting, SQL injection, canonicalization
- Authentication attacks such as network eavesdropping, brute force attacks, dictionary attacks, cookie replay, credential theft
- Authorization attacks such as elevation of privilege, the disclosure of confidential data, data tampering, luring attacks
- Configuration management attacks such as unauthorized access to administration interfaces / configuration stores, retrieval of clear text configuration data, lack of individual accountability, over-privileged process & service accounts
- Sensitive information attacks such as access to sensitive data in storage, network eavesdropping,
- Session management attacks such as session hijacking, session replay, man in the middle,
- Cryptography attacks due to poor key generation or key management and weak or custom encryption,
- Parameter manipulation attacks e.g. query string manipulation, form field / cookie / HTTP header manipulation,
- Exception management attacks such as denial of service,
- Auditing and logging attacks
4. Cyber Incident Response
Incident Response relates to the plans, policies, and procedures for handling cyber security incidents.
Broadly speaking, Cyber Incident Response covers:
- Organizing an Incident Response Capability
- Preparing for and preventing Incidents
- Detection and analysis of Incidents
- Containment, Eradication, and Recovery
- Post Incident Activity
Specifically, Cyber Incident Response encompasses:
- Forensic Imaging & Cloning
- Recovering Digital Evidence in Computer Devices
- Mathematical Authentication of Digital Evidence
- Analysing Data from Data Files, Operating Systems, Network Traffic, Applications, and Multiple Sources
- Analyzing Active Data, Latent Data, and Archival Data
- Wireless, Network, Database and Password forensics
- Social media forensics
- Malware, Memory and Browser forensics
- Cell Phone Forensics
- Web and Email investigation
- Analysing Server Logs
5. Regulatory Compliance
Regulatory Compliance relates to measures undertaken to ensure compliance with applicable laws and mandatory cyber security standards.
Failure to meet regulatory compliance requirements can result in civil and criminal action and even imprisonment for organization heads.
Usage of consolidated and harmonized compliance controls ensures regulatory compliance without unnecessary duplication of effort and activity.
One such control system is the “Effective Compliance and Ethics Program” contained in Chapter 8B2.1 of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines Manual issued by the United States Sentencing Commission.
Another control is the “AS 3806- 2006” issued by Standards Australia. This provides guidance on:
- The principles of effective management of an organization’s compliance with its legal obligations, as well as any other relevant obligations such as industry and organizational standards
- The principles of good governance and accepted community and ethical norms.
6. Data Protection
Data Protection relates to the cyber security aspects of protecting the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data.
From a Data Protection perspective, data can be classified into 3 types — data at rest, data in motion and data under use.
Critical and confidential data includes source code, product design documents, process documentation, internal price lists, financial documents, strategic planning documents, due diligence research for mergers and acquisitions, employee information, customer data such as credit card numbers, medical records, financial statements etc.
Data Loss Prevention solutions:
- Identify confidential data
- Track that data as it moves through and out of enterprise
- Prevent unauthorized disclosure of data by creating and enforcing disclosure policies
Various encryption technologies such as symmetric encryption, public key encryption, and full disk encryption can be used for data protection.
A data protection policy involves:
- Instituting good security and privacy policies for collecting, using and storing sensitive information
- Using strong encryption for data storage.
- Limiting access to sensitive data.
- Safely purging old or outdated sensitive information.
7. Cyber Security Training
Cyber Security Training is a formal process for educating personnel about cyber security and building relevant skills and competencies.
Cyber Security Training ensures that relevant personnel understand their cyber security responsibilities. This enables them to properly use and protect the information and resources entrusted to them.
Effective cyber security training must include:
- Real-world training on systems that emulate the live environment,
- Continual training capability for routine training,
- Timely exposure to new threat scenarios,
- Exposure to updated scenarios reflecting the current threat environment,
- Coverage of basic day-to-day practices required by the users
8. Cyber Security Testing
Cyber Security Testing is the process of ascertaining how effectively the entity meets specific cyber security objectives.
Cyber Security Testing encompasses:
- Review Techniques, which include Documentation Review, Log Review, Ruleset Review, System Configuration Review, Network Sniffing, and File Integrity Checking
- Target Identification and Analysis Techniques, which include Network Discovery, Network Port and Service Identification, Vulnerability Scanning, Active & Passive Wireless Scanning, Wireless Device Location Tracking, and Bluetooth Scanning
- Target Vulnerability Validation Techniques which include Password Cracking, Penetration Testing, Penetration Testing and Social Engineering
- Security Assessment Planning which includes Developing a Security Assessment Policy, Prioritizing and Scheduling Assessments, Selecting and Customizing Techniques, Assessment Logistics, Assessor Selection and Skills, Location Selection, Technical Tools and Resources Selection, Assessment Plan Development and Legal Considerations
- Security Assessment Execution which includes Coordination, Assessing, Analysis, Data Handling, Data Collection, Data Storage, Data Transmission and Data Destruction
- Post Testing Activities which includes Mitigation Recommendations, Reporting and Remediation/Mitigation
9. Contingency Planning
Contingency planning revolves around preparing for unexpected and potentially unfavorable events that are likely to have an adverse impact.
Types of Contingency Plans are:
- Business Continuity Plan
- Continuity of Operations Plan
- Crisis Communications Plan
- Critical Infrastructure Protection Plan
- Cyber Incident Response Plan
- Disaster Recovery Plan
- Information System Contingency Plan
- Occupant Emergency Plan
Stages in the Information System Contingency Planning Process are:
- Developing the Contingency Planning Policy Statement
- Conducting the Business Impact Analysis
- Identifying Preventive Controls
- Creating Contingency Strategies
- Plan Testing, Training, and Exercises
- Plan Maintenance
We live in a world where everything seems to be getting hacked — Airplanes, ATM machines, Baby monitors, Biometric devices, Bitcoin wallets, Cars, CCTV cameras, Drones, Gaming consoles, Health trackers, Medical devices, Power plants, Self-aiming rifles, Ships, Smart-watches, Smartphones & more.
The increasing global cost of cybercrime ($100 billion+ a year) has led to a massive surge in the demand for cybercrime investigators. This article explores the 22 skills every cybercrime investigator must have.
Skill 1: Web Technologies
Considering the magnitude and impact of web attacks, it is necessary for a cyber crime investigator to understand some of the technologies that run the Internet and the World Wide Web.
This includes practical activities including hosting a domain, creating SFTP users, setting up custom MX records, setting up, configuring & administering private email accounts, databases, and Virtual Private Servers, configuring SSL for secure websites and deploying cloud infrastructure. The investigator must also understand installing, configuring & deploying content management systems and e-commerce platforms.
Skill 2: Web Hacking
Since a majority of cyber crime cases involve web-hacking or web-attacks, it is essential for cyber crime investigators to have a strong knowledge of the techniques of web hacking such as Footprinting, Bypassing Authorization Schema, SQL injection, Cross Site Scripting (XSS), Broken Authentication, Session Hijacking, Unvalidated Redirects & Forwards, and Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF).
Skill 3: Suspect interviewing
Effective suspect interviewing is an essential skill for cybercrime investigators. The investigator must understand the difference between an interrogation and an interview and how to prepare for and conduct a suspect interview. The investigator must be able to detect deception, document an interview and get an admission from a suspect. An investigator must also know how to conduct an inquiry in an organization.
Skill 4: Documentation
Even the best investigation is worthless if it is not supported by accurate and relevant documentation and that’s why a thorough understanding of documentation is essential for a cybercrime investigator.
Skill 5: Law
Every step of an investigation must be in compliance with the law and that’s why a thorough understanding of the applicable law is essential for a cyber crime investigator.
Skill 6: Phishing tools, techniques, and counter-measures
Phishing is one of the most popular techniques among hackers and financial cyber criminals. This makes it important for a cyber crime investigator to understand phishing tools, techniques, and counter-measures.
Skill 7: Virtual Payment Systems
Virtual Payment Systems have taken the global money markets by storm. A cyber crime investigator must have a strong understanding of how these systems work.
Skill 8: Financial instruments and concepts
Financial crimes are some of the most interesting cases that cyber crime investigators are called upon to solve. These include including advance-fee scam, bank frauds & carding, charge back fraud, check washing, check fraud, credit card fraud, identity theft, insider trading, insurance fraud, mortgage fraud, ponzi schemes, securities fraud, skimming, wireless identity theft and more.
Skill 9: Forensic accounting
Forensic Accountants are called upon in cases involving economic damages calculations, bankruptcy, securities fraud, tax fraud, money laundering, business valuation, and e-discovery. It is important for a cyber crime investigator to have a basic understanding of forensic accounting.
Skill 10: Fraud Investigation
Many times a cyber crime investigator is called upon to handle fraud investigations. An investigator must understand Fraud (its extent, patterns and causes), Fraud Risk Assessment & Management, Fraud Prevention, Detection & Reporting.
Skill 11: Bitcoin & other crypto-currencies
Bitcoin is, without doubt, the most famous crypto-currency. It gained a lot of notoriety during the crackdown on Silk Road, an underground online marketplace trading in drugs, stolen financial information, weapons & more.
Considering the use of bitcoin (and other cryptocurrencies) by criminals, a strong understanding of bitcoin forensics is essential for cyber crime investigators.
Skill 12: Malware incident prevention & incident response
Considering the impact of malware, it is essential for a cyber crime investigator to have a strong understanding of malware incident prevention and malware incident response.
Skill 13: Dark Web
The World Wide Web that the vast majority of netizens use is also referred to as the clearnet — since it primarily is unencrypted in nature. Then there is the deep web — the part of the clearnet, which is not indexed by search engines. Deep web includes data stored in password-protected pages and databases. The darkweb is a small part of the deepweb. The deepweb consists of darknets including peer-to-peer networks, Freenet, I2P, and Tor. The Tor darkweb is also called onionland, since its top level domain suffix is .onion and it uses the traffic anonymization technique of onion routing.
Considering the popularity of the darkweb amongst the organized criminals groups, a cyber crime investigator must have a thorough working knowledge of the dark web.
Skill 14: Email investigation
Despite the popularity of instant messengers (such as Whatsapp) and social media, email remains one of the most popular methods of online communication in the world. This makes it essential for a cyber crime investigator to have a strong knowledge of email tracking & tracing.
Skill 15: Log analysis
In a large number of cyber crime cases, the investigation begins with an analysis of server logs. It is essential for a cyber crime investigator to have a sound working knowledge of server log analysis.
Skill 16: Browser forensics
In many cases of cyber crime, valuable evidence can be obtained from web browsers. This makes it important for a cyber crime investigator to have a strong practical knowledge of browser forensics.
These evidence points include history, bookmarks, credit card information & contact information stored in autofill, saved passwords, files in the download location. Browser forensics also involves analysis of cloud printers and other connected devices, extensions, cookies and site data, location settings and exceptions, media settings (like camera and microphone permissions) & exceptions, unsandboxed plug-in access & exceptions, automatic downloads and exceptions and more.
Skill 17: Social Media Forensics
It’s probably not incorrect to say that almost every Internet user is part of at least one social media platform. This makes social media forensics an essential skill for a cyber crime investigator.
Skill 18: Google Ecosystem & its Forensics
Google isn’t just a search engine anymore. The Google ecosystem is all around us — Gmail, YouTube, Google groups, Google sites, Google plus, Google keep and so much more. This makes Google forensics a must-have skill for cyber crime investigators.
Skill 19: Forensic technologies
It is essential for a cyber crime investigator to have a strong working knowledge of forensic technologies, cyber forensic concepts and ISO/IEC 27037 — the most important global standard for identification, collection, acquisition and preservation of potential digital evidence.
Skill 20: Cyber security
A basic working knowledge of cyber security is essential for everyone and more so for cyber crime investigators. Aspects of information security include Application Security, Cloud Computing Security, Computer Security, Cyber Security Standards, Data Security, Database Security, Information Security, Internet Security, Mobile Security, and Network Security.
Skill 21: Cryptography & Steganography
Many people use cryptography and steganography. And these include criminals and terrorists. Hence a working knowledge of these is useful for cyber crime investigators.
Skill 22: Password recovery & forensics
In many cases it is found that potential evidence is locked up in password protected files. This makes it essential for cyber crime investigators to have a strong practical knowledge of password recovery & forensics.
I’m not a techie, nor a lawyer and yet here I am in a field that takes on both these mammoths. I’ve been here a long time; India’s had her cyber law in place since the year 2000. So, it’s deeply disappointing to see the confusion in students and professionals alike about the various aspects of a cyber education.
Yes, I said cyber education and not just an IT education. So, I’m not only talking about the technology in cyberspace. I’m referring to the other side of the spectrum.
9 out of 10 people today have faced some type of cybercrime. And yet, almost 7 out of those 9 will not know what to do about it.
I thought about cybercrime, you know, as a non-techie and a non-lawyer, and decided to break it down to its foundation stones.
Here, let’s create our first bifurcation. Cybercrime may be divided into 2 parts — Pre-crime and Post-crime
This is where your crime hasn’t happened yet. So, you are basically hoping for the best and preparing for the worst. This can also be divided further into:
1. Cyber security
In layman’s terms, every step that you take to ensure that your computer hardware, computer software, networks, accounts etc. remain safe from any breach, aka cybercrime, is cyber security. Simple, isn’t it? Well, simple is where this article stays. You want a connoisseur’s break up of the cyber security menu, see: The 9 sides of cyber security
2. Cyber Insurance
The obvious next step in pre-crime schedule. What you may not be able to secure ought to be insured.
This is where your cybercrime worst has happened. Now, hopefully, you aren’t affected too badly. But even if you are, there are divisions to this part that can help you.
1. Cyber Law
This is the law that governs cyberspace and as often as not has jurisdiction beyond your country. So, where do you report a cybercrime. Cyber law tells you the where, how and whom to approach. It also tells you the punishments for various cybercrimes. You know, in case you may be committing one?
2. Cyber Investigation
Here’s where the sleuths step in. Professionals here need to have that investigative streak and need to be armed with the latest tools and techniques of cyber investigation. This is where you get answers to how the cybercrime was committed and with any luck, may just get the criminal. And again, if you want the real dirt on what all an investigator needs to know, see — 25 Skills Essential for a Cyber Crime Investigator
So, you’re a student or professional who has a thought that they want a piece of the humongous cybercrime pie. This article may just have helped you understand where you want to be.
Just be prepared to keep learning to stay abreast in this ever-evolving super-exciting space.
What is Cyber Law?
In order to arrive at an acceptable definition of the term Cyber Law, we must first understand the meaning of the term law. Simply put, law encompasses the rules of conduct:
- that have been approved by the government, and
- which are in force over a certain territory, and
- which must be obeyed by all persons on that territory. Violation of these rules will lead to government action such as imprisonment or fine or an order to pay compensation.
The term cyber or cyberspace has today come to signify everything related to computers, the Internet, websites, data, emails, networks, software, data storage devices (such as hard disks, USB disks etc) and even Airplanes, ATM machines, Baby monitors, Biometric devices, Bitcoin wallets, Cars, CCTV cameras, Drones, Gaming consoles, Health trackers, Medical devices, Power plants, Self-aiming rifles, Ships, Smart-watches, Smartphones & more.
Thus a simplified definition of cyber law is that it is the “law governing cyber space”.
The issues addressed by cyber law include cyber crime, electronic commerce
1. Cyber crime
An interesting definition of cyber crime was provided in the “Computer Crime: Criminal Justice Resource Manual” published in 1989. According to this manual, cyber crime covered the following:
- computer crime i.e. any violation of specific laws that relate to computer crime,
- computer related crime i.e. violations of criminal law that involve a knowledge of computer technology for their perpetration, investigation, or prosecution,
- computer abuse i.e. intentional acts that may or may not be specifically prohibited by criminal statutes. Any intentional act involving knowledge of computer use or technology is computer abuse if one or more perpetrators made or could have made gain and / or one or more victims suffered or could have suffered loss.
2. Electronic commerce
The term electronic commerce or E-commerce is used to refer to electronic data used in commercial transactions. Electronic commerce laws usually address issues of data authentication by electronic and/or digital signatures.
3. Intellectual Property in as much as it applies to cyberspace
- 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.
4. Data protection & privacy
Data protection and privacy laws address legal issues arising in the collecting, storing and transmitting sensitive personal data by data controllers such as banks, hospitals, email service providers etc.
The Need for Cyber Law
The first question that a student of cyber law will ask is whether there is a need for a separate field of law to cover cyberspace. Isn’t conventional law adequate to cover cyberspace?
Let us consider cases where so-called conventional crimes are carried out using computers or the Internet as a tool. Consider cases of spread of pornographic material, criminal threats delivered via email, websites that defame someone or spread racial hatred etc. In all these cases, the computer is merely incidental to the crime. Distributing pamphlets promoting racial enmity is in essence similar to putting up a website promoting such ill feelings.
Of course, it can be argued that when technology is used to commit such crimes, the effect and spread of the crime increases enormously. Printing and distributing pamphlets even in one locality is a time consuming and expensive task while putting up a globally accessible website is very easy.
In such cases, it can be argued that conventional law can handle cyber cases. The Government can simply impose a stricter liability (by way of imprisonment and fines) if the crime is committed using certain specified technologies. A simplified example would be stating that spreading pornography by electronic means should be punished more severely than spreading pornography by conventional means.
As long as we are dealing with such issues, conventional law would be adequate. The challenges emerge when we deal with more complex issues such as ‘theft’ of data. Under conventional law, theft relates to “movable property being taken out of the possession of someone”.
The General Clauses Act defines movable property as “property of every description, except immovable property”. The same law defines immovable property as “land, benefits to arise out of land, and things attached to the earth, or permanently fastened to anything attached to the earth”. Using these definitions, we can say that the computer is movable property.
Let us examine how such a law would apply to a scenario where data is ‘stolen’. Consider my personal computer on which I have stored some information. Let us presume that some unauthorized person picks up my computer and takes it away without my permission. Has he committed theft? The elements to consider are whether some movable property has been taken out of the possession of someone. The computer is movable property and I am the legal owner entitled to possess it. The thief has dishonestly taken this movable property out of my possession. It is theft.
Now consider that some unauthorized person simply copies the data from my computer onto his pen drive. Would this be theft? Presuming that the intangible data is movable property, the concept of theft would still not apply as the possession of the data has not been taken from me. I still have the ‘original’ data on the computer under my control. The ‘thief’ simply has a ‘copy’ of that data. In the digital world, the copy and the original are indistinguishable in almost every case.
Consider another illustration on the issue of ‘possession’ of data. I use the email account firstname.lastname@example.org for personal communication. Naturally, a lot of emails, images, documents etc are sent and received by me using this account. The first question is, who ‘possesses’ this email account? Is it me because I have the username and password needed to ‘login’ and view the emails? Or it is Google Inc because the emails are stored on their computers?
Another question would arise if some unauthorized person obtains my password. Can it be said that now that person is also in possession of my emails because he has the password to ‘login’ and view the emails?
Another legal challenge emerges because of the ‘mobility’ of data. Let us consider an example of international trade in the conventional world. Sameer purchases steel from a factory in China uses the steel to manufacture nails in a factory in India and then sells the nails to a trader in the USA. The various Governments can easily regulate and impose taxes at various stages of this business process.
Now consider that Sameer has shifted to an ‘online’ business. He sits in his house in Pune (India) and uses his computer to create pirated versions of expensive software. He then sells this pirated software through a website (hosted on a server located in Russia). People from all over the world can visit Sameer’s website and purchase the pirated software. Sameer collects the money using a PayPal account that is linked to his bank account in a tax haven country like the Cayman Islands.
It would be extremely difficult for any Government to trace Sameer’s activities.
It is for these and other complexities that conventional law is unfit to handle issues relating to cyberspace. This brings in the need for a separate branch of law to tackle cyberspace.
No, it's not so that you don't have to give up the original license the next time the traffic policeman on the corner asks you for it.
The next time you're asked to show your driver's license and your vehicle registration papers, you don't need to show the physical copy. Just show the digital copies stored in the DigiLocker mobile app on your phone! The Government of India allows it.
And, if you don't have the DigiLocker app, just head on over to https://digilocker.gov.in/public/register and you can just register with your Aadhar number!
CYBER LAW...Ominous as that sounds, even right now you're probably saying to yourself, "How does that affect me? I'm no criminal!" Right? So, here's a quick rundown of how cyber law affects your world; the ordinary, day-to-day things you do.
- Your sensitive personal information stored by the Aadhar computers and even your doctor, bank and insurance company.
- The millions of cyber attacks targeting you, your company and your country.
- E-mails, SMS and whatsapp messages you send and receive.
- Mobile wallets, online banking and other electronic payment systems you use.
- Music, movies and software you download from the Internet.
- E-commerce apps and sites you use for online shopping.
- Smartphones, WiFi, 3D printing and wearable technology you use.
- Online tax filing and share trading you do.
- Social networks and rating & review platforms you use.
- Your right to be forgotten by search engines and social networks.
- E-tenders, E-courts, E-governance, Electronic contracts.
- Digital Evidence that relates to cases from divorce to ransomware.
- Open source technologies and software licensing issues.
- The regulatory filing that companies do.
- Standards for security and incident response that companies use.
- Information Technology Law Compliance that is essential for companies.
- Stock images, photos, videos and audio.
- Torrent, p2p and file-sharing platforms.
- Internet of Things.
So, there you go. Just a few things affected by cyber law.
Interested? If you want to know some more, you can always take a look at our Diploma in Cyber Law program.