In this technology-driven world, our day-to-day activity of life is dependent on the internet. Be it online shopping, paying bills, finding a life partner, social networking, booking movie tickets, etc. Unfortunately, internet-abled services in this digital era have also attracted crimes relating to computers or the internet and have caused grave consequences.
In this article, we will discuss cyber crimes, their types, their effect on society, how to report cybercrime, the laws governing cybercrime in India, the punishment for cybercrime, and how to stay safe on the internet.
What is Cybercrime?
“Cybercrime” has not been defined under any statute. However, “cyber” means anything relating to information technology, computer system, and the internet. Hence, “cyber-crime” means any offences or unlawful acts committed using information technology, computer system, and the internet. It can range from spam emails to fraud attempts. It also includes illegal music downloads, posting obscene pictures or videos, posting confidential information on the internet, etc.
Cybercrime can be committed through various modes such as;
· hacking/ theft of information stored in the computer system,
· Email bombing,
· Denial of Service attack,
· Unauthorised access to networks or computer systems,
· Virus/worm attack,
· Internet time theft, or
· Logic bombs.
It can be broadly classified into three parts, namely:
1. crime against property – intellectual property infringement, credit card frauds, online gambling, phishing, etc.,
2. crime against a person – cyber defamation, cyberstalking, cyber pornography or
3. crime against the government – cyber terrorism.
To understand cybercrimes comprehensively, let us look into the types of cybercrimes that cybercriminals or attackers commit.
Types of cybercrime
There are a wide variety of cybercrimes across the world, some of these are as follows:
When a person gains access to your computer without ones permission, it is called hacking. The hackers (person committing hacking) tries to gain access to confidential information stored on the computer system. The motive of hackers in such crimes is to get fame, greed, power, revenge, etc.
a) SQL Injections
SQL (Structured Query Language) Injections attack the software present on the website; it retrieves the credit card number or password from the website. In this, the hacker can gain access to the login information.
b) Theft of FTP Passwords
File Transfer Protocol (FTP) password attack, the hackers, tamper the website by obtaining the login details from the webmaster that stores the login details in the computer system. Here, hackers can easily access the website and change the website’s web pages as it pleases.
c) Cross-site scripting
In this hacking, the hacker infects the web page with malware. Then, if you visit the webpage, it will automatically download the script into your computer, granting access to your confidential information.
Viruses that spread from one computer to another can either modify or delete the information stored on the computer. It is spread through the internet or removable media such as CD-ROM, flash disk, and a magnetic tape inserted on the computer. Viruses can also be contracted through rogue websites, corrupt email attachments, or infected software.
In this, a malicious code is inserted into software to execute a malicious task at a specific event. The logic bombs delete the data stored in the computer and slow down the network for some time.
In this attack, the users are denied access to the service by overloading the computer with a request, more than the website can handle, thereby making the website inaccessible to other users. This results in the website becoming inoperable, malfunctioning, or crashing down completely.
This is the most common type of cybercrime. The hackers send fraudulent emails, pretending to be from banks asking the user to fill in details by clicking the link provided in the email. By clicking the link, malware is downloaded that extracts the credit card details of the user. Phishing can also be done through a voice call called Vishing. The user’s credit card information, password, or other personal information are extracted by making fake calls pretending to be from a bank.
Email bombing and spamming
Sending a large volume of lengthy emails to the target person to crash the victim’s email account or server is called email bombing. It is the same as a Denial-of-Service attack, sending bulk messages to a large number of users simultaneously. These messages contain links that act as phishing websites. The spammers collect email addresses and sell them to other spammers.
The attacker takes away the website’s control as the owner of the website and changes the content of the website or the attacker redirects the users of the original website to its fake website that is similar to the original website that the attacker controlled. As a result, the original owner of the website will lose control over the website.
Stalking any person on the internet is called cyberstalking. Here the stalker follows the person’s activity on the internet to obtain all the details and other personal information and thereby harass that person and make threats or intimidations. The stalker sends emails containing obscene content and viruses to harass the victim. Such harassment can occur at blogs, websites, chat rooms, discussion forums, etc., where they get anonymity.
Altering the data before or after processing is done in the computer system. This act is done by the person who enters the data, programmer/developer, or through a virus set to change the data.
Identity Theft and Credit Card Fraud
Cybercriminals steal your identity and gain access to information such as bank details or credit cards, or other information pretending to be you is called identity theft. When attackers get a hold of a credit card and use the card to make the purchase, it is called credit card fraud. The attackers can get the credit card details through phishing or credit card statements.
Salami Slicing attack
A program is inserted into a system to automatically carry out the technique by which the attackers steal money or resources in a small portion that is unnoticeable. This amount gets transferred into the attacker’s account.
The unauthorized use and distribution of computer software are called software piracy. Like, buying and selling original movies, songs, or software for free. It implies using someone’s intellectual property illegally and passing it to others, thereby reducing the developer’s revenue. Some examples of software piracy are: loading unlicensed software on your computer, using single licensed software on many computers, using a key generator to avoid copy protection, or distributing a licensed or unlicensed version of the software over the internet and offline.
Ransomware is malware that blocks the user from accessing their system until a ransom amount is paid. This can be done either by blocking the computer system or locking the computer’s screen or by closing the user’s file. It is also called Cyptoransomware.
Man-in-the-Middle (MITM) attack
In this type of cybercrime, the attacker joins in the conversation with the user and the application pretending it to be a normal conversation either to impersonate or eavesdrop on the conversation between the parties. As a result, steal personal information such as login details, account or credit card details, etc. It is used in e-commerce or financial application or other websites.
What is the effect of cybercrime on society at large?
Today’s world is virtual and everything. Our personal life, business, property, or government are all dependent on the computer. Taking advantage of these facts and situations, cybercriminals try to exploit the personal information stored in our computers for their benefit or to take revenge against the victim. Cybercrimes are increasing day by day. As per National Crime Records Bureau conducted in 2020, India has reported nearly 50,035 cybercrimes. The motive behind 60% of the cybercrime is fraud followed by sexual exploitation and extortion. It is evident from the reports that the crimes relating to sexual harassment have increased from 2030 in 2018 to 2266 in 2019.
Some cyber criminals try to harass or bully people on the internet, leading to defamation, harassment, and mental torture.
A malware attack on the computer does crime against property through email, websites, or personal chats. These attacks steal the essential information stored in the computer and thereby deny access to the user.
Crime against business is done by attacking the company’s computer system to steal the information on the servers, including confidential information. These attackers gain access to the bank details and quickly transfer funds from the company to another account. In addition, they get access to customer details. Therefore, the company has to suffer huge losses financially. Their reputation is at stake, and they lose their potential customers. Furthermore, if the website is hacked, the company loses the traffic that results in revenue loss.
Crime against the government causes disharmony among the people, and they will lose faith in the government.
Therefore, cybercrime has created an adverse effect not only on individuals but also on the government.
How to report cybercrime?
- Cybercrime can be reported to a website that can flag or report objectionable content. For example, a social networking website such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc., has the option of writing content.
- You can also file any cybercrime complaint online at National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal by clicking on the following link: https://cybercrime.gov.in
- Additionally, you can also report the complaint about cyber fraud relating to financial losses at the given national helpline number – 155260
- Another method of reporting cybercrime is filing a complaint before the cybercrime investigation cell and an application letter.
- The victim can also seek the help of a local police officer in case of an emergency. The IT Act, 2000 provides that the police officer not below the rank of “Inspector” shall investigate the cybercrime.
What are the laws governing cybercrime in India?
Cybercriminals are penalized under the Indian Penal Code and Information Technology Act, 2000. Both statutes cover offences such as fraud, cheating, theft, dishonestly receiving stolen property, sexual harassment, etc., protected under both laws. In addition, cybercriminals are also punished under the Narcotic and Drugs Prevention Act for the online sale of drugs.
How to prevent cybercrime/how to stay safe on the internet?
In today’s world, where people rely on the internet and anything is available, it is essential to protect ourselves from becoming prey to these cybercrimes. Furthermore, as cybercrime is on the rise, we should know how to protect our private and personal data from crimes like data theft, phishing, etc.
Social networking sites are the most used sites by ordinary people as well as criminals. However, due to the complexity of these sites, it is pretty tough to find the criminal. Therefore, it is straightforward to con people from these sites and victimize them.
Nevertheless, we have to observe certain precautions while being on the internet and thereby stay safe online. Therefore, we will discuss few activities which can help us stay safe on the internet.
Parents play a significant role in ensuring the safety of their children. Most of the cyber crimes are committed against small children and teenagers. Parents should educate their children about the do’s and don’ts while using the internet, such as:
- Not to reveal their sensitive personal data or personal information such as contact details, name, address, or password of any account on the internet,
- Not to meet any ‘online friends’ they have made through social networking sites at any private place. If they happen to meet them, always meet at a public place and inform your parent about the same.
- Not give their photographs to such ‘online friends’;
- Not to reply to any unknown messages containing any foul language or obscenely worded statements;
- Not to give consent on any website without consulting your parents.
- Do not reply to such information if the child comes across some unflattering statement or any uncomfortable statement. If such an act continues, report to the parent or teacher, who would help report the same to the police.
- Ensure that your computer has a firewall installed with parental controls. It should always be turned on;
- The antivirus software must be installed and updated.
- Ensure secure configuration on your computer;
- Memorize your password and never write it down on any mail or other places on the internet. (including; sensitive information such as credit card details, security number, bank details, etc.).
- Do not use the auto-update option. On the other hand, keep your computer updated manually, as a cybercriminal attack on computers that agree to the auto-update option.
- The password should be strong with alphanumeric characters and should not be apparent or easily linked to your credentials. Change your password frequently, and do not use the same password for every site.
- If you receive any mail requesting you to disclose your personal or financial information, do not disclose your information;
- Always use the bank’s official website and do not click on any link provided in the mail.
- To ensure that the site is secure, check for the padlock sign provided on the browser toolbar.
- Do not open any unknown attachments in your mail.
- You can also report such mail or phishing scams to the website that has an option to report any abuse to prevent receiving any further emails.
Safeguard your credit card
- Never divulge your credit card details to anyone.
- If you have to provide your credit card details to another company, ensure that you cross-check the credibility of that company before divulging any information.
- If you receive any calls from an unknown number claiming to be the credit card provider, never share your account details and inform the credit card provider about the same.
- While making transactions, check if the credit has not been tampered with.
- Store your credit card statement. If you have changed your credit card, tear off your old messages and credit card to not be misused.
- Inform your credit card provider about any change of address, if you are travelling abroad, or if you lost your credit card, etc.
Cybercrime is a crime that is undertaken by using a computer resource or the internet. These offences include hacking, identity theft, cyberstalking, cyber terrorism, cyber fraud, denial of service attacks, phishing, etc. In this internet-driven world, where every second thing is linked to the internet, all our data, photographs, videos are available online, which has increased the number of cybercrimes in the world. Hackers get the data from any online platform and use it for their benefit. Cybercriminals are punished under IPC and Information Technology Act. The victim can register their complaint online or with the police officer. Additionally, to prevent ourselves from becoming prey to these cybercriminals, one must follow the aforementioned precautions.