Globally, the world is still coming to terms with the reactionary and reporting measures that must take place with respect to cybercrimes. In India, we are struggling at all levels. Awareness amongst victims and law enforcement is at a very nascent stage. Regulators are fraught with the fast-paced way technology is developing and leaving its impact in the criminal world. Our laws are also not adept to deal with all nuances of cybercrimes thus leaving a huge gap in the current affairs and the principles with which these affairs should be dealt.
Connectivity and Cybercrimes
In the age of the internet, people and things are connected to everything and everyone. In the words of Thomas L. Friedman, the world is flat. Boundary restrictions have diminished to a large extent. This has inter alia resulted in expansion of the geographical market, affecting businesses all over the world.
The big brands of the world have indeed scooped a mouthful of this new age beauty and with everything going digital, the local and the small stores are not far behind. Market based e-commerce platforms like Amazon have come up over the last two decades giving ample opportunities to brick and mortar stores to partner with it and expand their visibility over and above their physical limits. With all data being stored on computer networks and cloud systems, limitation from a storage or organizational point of view does not exist. Any information stored is capable of being retrieved in a few clicks. Commerce is booming and anything can be made available anywhere. It’s a matter of select, click and pay
Growth of cybercrimes can be traced back to the emergence of the electronic mail application or e-mail. The cost effectiveness and instantaneous nature made emails very popular and attractive amongst the society, including the criminals. While emails helped in increasing the connectivity factor for the better, there was a huge risk lurking on the side.
Cybercrimes and Traditional Crimes
Cybercrimes are not fundamentally different from traditional crimes. ‘Crime’ being the root concept, both these types of crimes are results of actions or omissions which lead to a breach of law and are consequently counterbalanced by the sanction of the State. The main difference is the usage of computers - computers can either be the mode for committing a cybercrime or can be the thing which is attacked to cause destruction or disruption. The computer is used as a tool in cybercrimes such as financial crimes, sale of illegal articles, money laundering, pornography, cyber stalking, email spoofing, or phishing. On the other hand, crimes in which unauthorized access to computers or computer systems or networks is gained to get hold of confidential information kept in electronic form, trojan attacks, data diddling, DDoS, computers, computer systems or networks or programmes are the target.
The key differences between cybercrime and traditional crimes could thus be enumerated down to the following: (a) cybercrime is committed by using technology and therefore cybercriminals are those that have a thorough understanding of cyber technology and the Internet; (b) cybercrimes take place in real time and are therefore efficient; (c) cybercrimes do not have any geographical limitations or boundaries.
Cybercrimes and Criminal Law in India
Indian Penal Code, 1860
For the longest time religion was at the forefront in society and laws were governed by religious codes. The criminal system of India too was elementarily divided according to religions and was administered by the Hindu and Muslim rulers. Gradually, as history took its course and Hindu rulers diminished, so did the Hindu laws. Islamic rulers on the other hand were still ruling parts of the country and thus Islamic law remained prevalent. Since the population was diverse, certain religious laws created disparities vis-à-vis nature and applicability of punishments. When the East India Company took over the country, it found the Islamic laws to be incoherent with the common law system. Thus, it introduced various reforms over the course of time and this gradually led to the formation of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC).
Information Technology Act, 2000
The United Nation Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) was created by the resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1996. The purpose of the UNCITRAL was to streamline, harmonize and unify the law of international trade. However, inadequacies and impediments crept in the law affecting trade. A ‘Model Law’ was drafted to work towards removal of the said shortcomings. After examining the comments of the various governments, the Model Law on electronic law was finally adopted in the 605th meeting of the General Assembly of the United Nations on 12 June 1996. The Model Law came into being with the object of facilitating the use of electronic commerce acceptable to states having different legal, social and economic system. Consequently, the member states were urged to modify their legislations governing the use of alternatives to paper form methods of communication and storage of information and frame a similar legislation where no such law was in force at that time.