Today the internet has taken the world by storm. Especially after the Pandemic, almost every task is being done online, right from education to banking. With the increasing use of the Internet, the cybercrime rate too has gone up. Cybercrime is any crime conducted by the use of Computers and/or networks where the computer is used either as a weapon or as the target. Everyday stories about cybercrime related to cloning of credit/debit cards at ATMs, ransomware, identity theft, KYC (know your customer) frauds, cryptojacking, drugs and illegal arms sale through Dark Web, social-media stalking, child pornography, online job fraud and lottery, social engineering, web defacement, cyber terrorism etc. are being published in the media.
Cybercrimes can be against the government, which include cyberterrorism, spreading computer viruses, cyber extortion, hacking of government websites etc. Attacks against individuals include harassment, stalking, impersonation and privacy invasion; and on property include vandalism, stealing confidential information, copyright issues and so on.
Cybercrimes are covered under Information Technology Act (IT Act) and the Indian Penal Code. The IT Act, 2000, which came into force on October 17, 2000, deals with cybercrime and electronic commerce. The IT Act was later amended in the year 2008. The Act defines cyber crimes and punishments. Amendments to the Indian Penal Code, 1860, The Reserve Bank of India Act were also done under this IT Act. The purpose of this Act is to safeguard e-governance, e-banking, and e-commerce transactions.
Some important sections of the IT Act under which cyber crimes may be registered are :
Section 65 – Tampering with Computer Source Documents. Penalties if found guilty can be imprisonment up to 3 years and/or up-to Rs 2 lakh fine. An example of such crime is: Employees of a telecom company were held guilty by the court for tampering with the Electronic Serial Number of cellphones of another company that had locked the handset before selling it so as to work with its SIM only.
Section 66 – Hacking with computer systems or unauthorised usage of computer system and network. Punishment if found guilty can be imprisonment up to three years and/or a fine of up to Rs 5 lakh. An example: When a criminal hacked into an academy network by unauthorized access of broadband and modified the passwords of users to deny access. The criminal was punished under Section 66 of IT Act.
Section 66C – Identity theft using passwords, digital signatures, biometric thumb impressions or other identifying features of another person for fraudulent purposes. An example is – when a criminal obtained the login and password of an online trading account and transferred the profit to his account by doing online transactions in the trading account in an unauthorized manner. The criminal was charged under Section 66C.
Section 66D – Cheating by Personation Using Computer Resources. Punishment if found guilty can be imprisonment up to three years and/or up to Rs 1 lakh fine. An example: A criminal who posed as a woman and tried to seduce a businessman to extort Rs 96 lakh from him by creating a fake email Id and trapping him in a cyber relationship. The criminal was arrested and charged under Section 66D and various other IPC sections.
Section 66E – Taking pictures of private areas, publishing or transmitting them without a person’s consent is punishable under this section. Penalties if found guilty can be imprisonment up to three years and/or up to Rs 2 lakh fine.
Section 66F – Acts of cyber terrorism. Guilty can be served a sentence of imprisonment up to life! An example: When a threat email was sent to the Bombay Stock Exchange and the National Stock Exchange, which challenged the security forces to prevent a terror attack planned on these institutions. The criminal was apprehended and charged under Section 66F of the IT Act.
Section 67 – Publishing Obscene Information in Electronic Form. In this case, the imprisonment is up to five years and a fine up to Rs 10 lakh. An example: When an accused from Mumbai posted obscene information about the victim on the internet after she refused to marry him. The criminal was implicated under Section 67 of the IT Act in addition to various sections of IPC.
The law enforcement agencies can take recourse to the following IPC, 1860 sections if the IT Act is insufficient to cover specific cyber offences:
Section 379 – Punishment for theft for up to three years and/or fine. Since many cybercrimes are committed using stolen mobile/computers or stolen data this IPC Section comes into the picture.
Section 420 – Cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property. Cybercrimes like creating Bogus websites, cyber frauds are punishable under this section of IPC with a seven-year jail term and/or fine. This section of the IPC deals with crimes related to password thefts for committing frauds or creating fraudulent websites.
Section 463 – Making false documents or false electronic records. Crimes such as Email spoofing are punishable under this section with imprisonment of up to seven years and/or fine.
Section 468 – Committing forgery for the intention of cheating attracts imprisonment of up to seven years and/or a fine. Email spoofing is one such crime punishable under this section.
Apart from the above laws, there are many more sections under IT Act and IPC, which have provisions for cybercrimes.
Even with cyber laws in place, the rate of cybercrime is increasing drastically. India reported a rise of 11.8% in cybercrime in the year 2020, during which around 50,000 cases were reported. The Police are grappling with solving cybercrimes due to challenges faced by them like underreporting, the jurisdiction of crime, public unawareness and increasing technology costs of investigating crime.
Though now there are ample laws and regulations to deal with Cybercrime, there is a need to update these laws as rapid technological developments are taking place and criminals are inventing new techniques of committing cybercrime. Coordination amongst law enforcement agencies at the National and International level also need to be intensified for effective cybercrime control.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
END OF ARTICLE