DIGITAL DEPENDENCY DURING LOCKDOWN: EDGE OF NEED OR CRIME

Updated: Mar 14

The world is currently facing the pandemic where over half the population of the world is under lockdown. While the practice of social distancing has made working, shopping and studying difficult, governments all over the world have encouraged people to adopt the technology for fulfilling their needs during this time.

Presently where technologies have encouraged us to be virtually advanced, such as online learning, payment and work from home are promoted, there is a darker side also where your safety is at risk. While many conventional criminal activities have dropped during the lockdown, virtual crime has seen a significant surge.

This is evident from the fact that a new trojan malware named Event Bot has been found which is quickly spreading to harm the banking application in the mobiles. It is a mobile trojan that affects the androids built in accessibility feature to steal data from financial applications, read messages and intercept messages allowing the malware to bypass two step authentication.

Top officials such as United Nations disarmament Chief Izumi Nakamitsu warned that cyber crime is rising, with malicious emails rising by 600 per cent. with an average attack recorded every 39 seconds. Concerns about cyber attacks against healthcare institutions and medical research establishments around the world have also been increased

According to the Federal Trade Commission, Covid related fraud already robbed US$ 13,4 million cumulative from American during lockdown. Top among these frauds are online shopping, bogus mail, travel and imposter scams.

While the economy among other things is hitting its lowest, crime rate is the only thing boosting. With scams ranging from free mobile recharges to free Netflix premium service offers. The Paytm double scam, a similar scam operated on Telegram, chatting and media sharing platform. Scamsters in specific Telegram groups attract Paytm Wallet customers by clicking on a few links to double their wallet amount. Officials at the federal home ministry say in the last 4 weeks there has been an 86 % rise in cyber-crime. Also, recently a case against an unknown person has been registered for placing an ad for the sale of the “Statue of Unity”.

Trending instance of these cyber frauds is the COVID-19 fund 'PM CARES,' which was developed by the office of the prime minister. Many false versions of the site have appeared and have successfully collected lakhs of rupees from unsuspicious people. India's Home Ministry officials submitted that over 8,000 complaints had been reported from people who were tricked in giving money to false versions of the government's flagship fund.

What is cyber crime ?

Cyber Crime means using the computer as a tool for further crime such as online fraud, child pornography and Intellectual property, identity theft or infringement of privacy.

Some common threats related to cyber crime

Identity theft - Theft of identities includes unlawfully stealing identifying information from another that determines one's identity for economic gain. It includes Hacking, Phishing , email spoofing, carding and phishing etc.

Internet time theft - It applies to fraud in such a manner that an unauthorized person exploits the internet time that another user charges for. The authorised individual shall have access to the ISP user ID and password of another individual, either by hacking or by unlawful means, without the knowledge of that person.

Theft of intellectual property - Intellectual property robbery (IP) is defined as copyright theft and trademark violations, etc. Falsified products and piracy are among the most common and hazardously documented consequences of IP theft.

Indian laws on cyber crime

There is no mention of the word 'Cyber Crime' either in IT Act 2000or in any other country’s legislation. Cyber crime is no different from conventional criminality. The main difference is that digital technology is involved in Cyber Crime. However, The IT Act, 2000 is the key act which deals with the provisions regulating cyber crimes in India. Prior to the promulgation of the IT Act , 2000 even an email had not been recognized as an acceptable legal means of communication under the prevailing laws of India and as proof in a court of law.

An identity theft includes both theft and fraud, hence the provisions of the Indian Penal Code 1860 (IPC) regarding forgery are sometimes invoked along with the IT Act, 2000. Some of the provisions concerning cyber offences are as follows:-

Section 43 of the Act provides that where a person is liable for damages to the device, computer system, etc. without the owner's consent, he or she shall be liable to pay compensation to the person concerned.

Section 66C provides that anyone who, fraudulently and unhelpfully, uses an electronic identification signature, a password or a particular identifying characteristic of any other person, is punished for up to three years with prison sentence and may also be liable for up to a lakh's penalty.

Section 66B provides penalty for dishonestly accessing stolen computer or communication equipment shall be imprisonment for a period of up to three years or a fine which may extend to one lakh or both.

Section 66 D, on the other hand, was introduced to punish deception by impersonation using computer tools.

Judicial Trends on Cyber-security

In the case of K.S. Puttaswamy vs Union of India the hon'ble Supreme court held that right to privacy is a fundamental right under the ambit of right to life. Cybercrime infringes the privacy of individuals and the protection of their records, in particular hacking, ransomware, identity theft, and other crimes against persons involving disclosure of personal details, texts, etc. without the consent of individuals.

Further, in violation of the copyright and trademark laws, the Delhi High Court has passed an ad interim ex parte order against telegram mobile app to block the channel within 48 hours offering pirated version of "Dainik Jagran".

PREFERENCE OF IT ACT OVER IPC PROVISION

Section 378 of the IPC concerning the "theft" of movable property shall refer to the theft of any records, whether electronic or otherwise, since section 22 of the IPC specifies that the terms "movable property" are meant to cover corporeal property of any sort, except land and property attached to the earth or permanently attached to something that is attached to the earth. The maximum penalty for theft is imprisonment for three years or fine or with both.The punishment for acquisition of stolen property is found in section 411 of the IPC, which is worded in the same way as section 66B of the IT Act. However, if Data were exchanged electronically, i.e. in intangible form, it would not constitute fraud directly under the IPC rather the provisions of IT ACT shall prevail here. This was clarified in the case of Sharat Babu Digumarti v. Government of NCT of Delhi Supreme Court held it is a settled position in law that a special statute prevails over the general and preceding legislation. Therefore, laws under IT ACT prevails over the laws under IPC.

CRITICAL APPRAISAL OF IT ACT, 2008

1. Electronic trading is based on the domain naming system. The IT Act 2000 does not address domain name issues. Also domain names have not been specified, and no reference is made to the rights and obligations of domain name owners.

2. The IT Act, 2000 does not address issues of protection of IPR in the context of the online environment. The legislation has left unresolved contested and highly critical problems surrounding online copyright, trademarks and patents, leaving several shortfalls.

3. The IT Act, 2000 does not cover different types of cyber-crimes or Internet crimes, for example cyber flashing and Internet hours theft.

ADVISORY AGAINST CYBER CRIME

Maharashtra published guidance for citizens using social media sites in Maharashtra Cyber Cell. They also published separate online fraud guidelines in accordance with directives issued by Central Administrative. Delhi police noticing the rise in cyber crime in the current pandemic issued an advisory, warning people against falling into the trap of online fraud, telephone fraud and phishing.The Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) released an advisory alert against a trojan malware called EventBot, which can impact the country's Android smartphone users and steal their personal financial details.

STEPS CIRCULATED IN THE ADVISORY FOR PROTECTION FROM CYBER CRIME

1. Using a Difficult Password.

2. Using two step verification.

3. Using licensed products.

4. Keep software on your device up to date.

5. Using anti virus software.

6. Avoid clicking unknown links in mail or somewhere else.

7. Avoid using unsecured wifi networks.

CONCLUSION

While humanity all over the world is suffering from the virus some are taking advantage of the present situation. Due to the social distancing norms digital dependency has increased and so has cyber-crime.

The government all over the world has warned the criminals not to take advantage of the current situation. The laws on cyber-crime are capable of curing the crime however, the potential threat posed by cyber theft, cyber flashing etc. cannot be overlooked and considerate measures should be employed by the government to tackle them. Governments of many states have issued advisory for the people to protect themselves from these criminals. Although cybercrime is noticing a significant jump, people can protect themselves from these attacks by following the protective measures advised by the government.


Author - Alok kumar

Student at Dr.Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University.