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Introduction to Cyber Wrongs, Conventional Crimes and Torts Through Computers,
Crimes and Torts Committed on a Computer Network and Relating to Electronic
Mail, Crimes Relating to Data Alteration/Destruction, Issues of Jurisdiction and
Applicable Law in Cyberspace, Enforcement Issues in Cyberspace, Online Dispute
Resolution, cyber stalking; cyber pornography; forgery and fraud; crime related to
IPRs; Cyber terrorism; computer vandalism
Introducation to Cyber Wrongs
Computer wrongs includes both civil wrongs and
crimes. ‘Cyber crimes’ is used in a generic sense which
tends to cover all kinds of civil and criminal wrongs
related to a computer. However, the phrase ‘cyber
crimes’ has two limitations to it:
1. cyber generally tends to convey the feeling of
‘internet’ or being ‘online’ and hence, does not cover
other computer related activities;
2. crimes restricts the application of the phrase to
criminal wrongs. It would not include civil wrongs.
Thus, it would be preferable to understand the
concept of any wrong related to computer as being a
CLASSIFICATION OF COMPUTER CRIMES
A) Where computer is used a tool to commit
B) B) Where the computer is the target for
There is a third category as well,
where computers are considered as
incidental to a crime.
CHALLENGES TO LAWS
India is today re-discovering itself –
technologically. Being a developing country, it realises
that the Internet and the use of computers are powerful
tools for its economic development. Economic
development presupposes existence of an appropriate
CONVENTIONAL CRIMES THROUGH
COMPUTER CYBER DEFAMATION
Every individual has a private right to protect his
reputation. Every individual has a right to its own
personal space and he would not want others to
interfere in that ‘space’. However, a public right to
freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under
Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India makes
enforcement of our private right a challenge.
A delicate balance has to be maintained. The law of
defamation has been designed to protect the
reputation of an injured person and provide such
balance between private and public rights by giving him
the right to sue for damages.
This is a type of crime wherein a person’s computer is
broken into so that his personal or sensitive information
can be accessed. In the United States, hacking is
classified as a felony and punishable as such. This is
different from ethical hacking, which many
organizations use to check their Internet security
In hacking, the criminal uses a variety of software to
enter a person’s computer and the person may not be
aware that his computer is being accessed from a
This crime occurs when a person violates
copyrights and downloads music, movies, games
There are even peer sharing websites which
encourage software piracy and many of these
websites are now being targeted by the FBI.
Today, the justice system is addressing this cyber
crime and there are laws that prevent people from
This is a kind of online harassment wherein the victim is
subjected to a barrage of online messages and emails.
Typically, these stalkers know their victims and instead
of resorting to offline stalking, they use the Internet to
However, if they notice that cyber stalking is not having
the desired effect, they begin offline stalking along with
cyber stalking to make the victims’ lives more
Chapter 22 of the Indian Penal Code deals with criminal
intimidation, insult and annoyance
Section 503 provides that whoever threatens another
with any injury to his person, reputation or property.
Cyber stalking in effect is committing criminal
intimidation with the help of computers.
However, the end-result being the same, cyber stalking
is merely criminal intimidation under section 503 of the
This has become a major problem with people using the
Internet for cash transactions and banking services.
In this cyber crime, a criminal accesses data about a
person’s bank account, credit cards, Social Security,
debit card and other sensitive information to siphon
money or to buy things online in the victim’s name.
It can result in major financial losses for the victim and
even spoil the victim’s credit history.
These are Internet-based software or programs that are
used to disrupt a network.
The software is used to gain access to a system to steal
sensitive information or data or causing damage to
software present in the system.
DDoS attacks are used to make an online service
unavailable and bring it down, by bombarding or
overwhelming it with traffic from multiple locations and
Large networks of infected computers, called Botnets
are developed by planting malware on the victim
The idea is normally to draw attention to the DDOS
attack, and allow the hacker to hack into a
system. Extortion and blackmail could be the other
Forgery is creation of a document which one knows is
not genuine and yet projects the same as if it is
genuine. In common parlance, it is used more in terms
of affixing somebody else’s signature on a document.
Digital forgery implies making use of digital technology
to forge a document. Desktop publishing systems,
colour laser and ink-jet printers, colour copiers, and
image scanners enable crooks to make fakes, with
relative ease, of cheques, currency, passports, visas,
birth certificates, ID cards, etc.
Section 91 of the IT Act (read with the Second Schedule)
amended the provisions of the IPC in relation to
‘forgery’ to include ‘electronic records’ as well as
Section 29A has been inserted in the Indian Penal Code
to provide for a definition of ‘electronic record’.
The words ‘electronic record’ will have the same
meaning which is assigned to it in section 2(1)(t)2 of the
Section 464 of the IPC was amended by section 91 of
the IT Act to include a false electronic record. Under
section 464, a person is said to make a false electronic
Pornography literally means, “Writings, pictures or films
designed to be sexually exciting”. Developing,
distributing and propagating the same over the Internet
is termed as cyber pornography.
This would include pornographic Web sites,
pornographic magazines produced using computers to
publish and print the material and the Internet to
download and transmit pornographic pictures, photos,
Information technology has made it much easier to
create and distribute pornographic materials through
the Internet; such materials can be transmitted all over
the world in a matter of seconds.
The issue of cyber pornography has been dealt with in
section 67 of the IT Act where publishing of information
which is obscene in electronic form has been made an
offence. Section 67 reads as under: 67. Publishing of
information which Is obscene in electronic form.
In case one is found committing an offence under
section 67, he shall be punished on first conviction with
imprisonment of either description for a term which may
extend to five years and with fine which may extend to
one lakh rupees and in the event of a second or
subsequent conviction with imprisonment of either
description for a term which may extend to ten years
and also with fine which may extend to two lakh rupees.
It is worth noticing that the obscenity test in section 67
is the same as that in section 292 of the IPC which
deals with sale of obscene books, etc.
Gambling is in many countries illegal. Computer is a
medium for the purposes of online gambling. The act of
gambling is categorised as an offence in some countries
and has a legal sanctity in others.
The main concern with online gambling is that most
virtual casinos are based offshore making them difficult
This means that people offer gambling services on the
Internet from countries where gambling is permitted
where players, from such countries where gambling is
illegal, play and bet.
The Public Gambling Act, 1867 prohibits gambling.
Section 3 of the Act imposes a fine on the person
opening a common gaming-house for others. However,
it is also worth noting that the Act presumes a physical
place where gambling will take place.
CRIMES AND TORTS COMMITTED ON A
COMPUTER NETWORK AND RELATING TO
Trespassing is a word known to us. Simply put,
it means entering upon or into a property owned by
someone else without his or her permission.
In the offline world, ‘entering’ would imply
physical entry into the property. Trespassing has
both civil and criminal consequences.
Trespassing has a digital counterpart which is
referred to as hacking. Hacking means
unauthorized access to a computer system.
Hacking has generally been understood as
interacting with a computer in a playful and exploratory
rather than goal-directed way.
The word ‘hack’ at the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology (MIT) usually refers to a clever, benign, and
“ethical” prank or practical joke, which is both
challenging for the perpetrators and amusing to the MIT
community (and sometimes even the rest of the
Under the Indian law, however, ‘hacking’ has been given
a wider dimension then mere ‘illegal access’ as
contemplated under the Cyber Crime Convention.
Hacking simpliciter entails civil consequences whereas
hacking along with commission of other act like
downloading information or lodging a virus results in
The definition provided under the Indian law surpasses
the generally accepted meaning of hacking. Section
66(1) of the IT Act requires hacking to mean:
ENFORCEMENT ISSUES IN CYBERSPACE
Computer crimes generally and crimes committed
through the Internet in particular are extremely
challenging because of their sophistication and variance
from crime in the ordinary sense.
Crimes on the Internet are characterised by high
technological innovation, anonymity, distance from the
scene of crime, extent of its reach and most important,
the unusual profile of the criminal, many times a
There is significant difference between crime on the
Internet and a crime with another modern technology
like the telephone. While crimes are rarely directed
against a telephone as an instrument, computers often
become the victims of attack.
ONLINE DISPUTE RESOLUTION (ODR)
The terminology ‘online dispute resolution’ (ODR) can,
on a prima facie screening, have two connotations.
Firstly, it can be viewed as resolution of online disputes.
That would mean resolution of online disputes.
COMMUNICATION MODES IN ODR
One of the advantages of online environment
over offline environment is the availability of various
communication modes to a user. It becomes important
to select the appropriate mode to conduct the ODR
process since different kinds of disputes require
different types of modes.
Communication Model in ODR
ODR process since different kinds of disputes require
different types of modes
2. Discussion Boards
3. Instant Messaging
4. Audio Conferencing
5. Video Conferencing
KINDS OF ODR
Blind Bidding or Blind Negotiation
Document/E-mail Arbitration for Disputes Arising from
Online Arbitration Through Video-conferencing
According to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation,
cyberterrorism is any "premeditated, politically motivated attack
against information, computer systems, computer programs, and
data which results in violence against non-combatant targets by
sub-national groups or clandestine agents. Unlike a
nuisance virus or computer attack that results in a denial of
service, a cyber terrorist attack is designed to cause physical
violence or extreme financial harm.
According to the U.S. Commission of Critical Infrastructure
Protection, possible cyber terrorist targets include the banking
industry, military installations, power plants, air traffic control
centers, and water systems.
Cyber terrorism is sometimes referred to as electronic terrorism or
The US Department of Defense (DoD) charged
the United States Strategic Command with the duty of
combating cyberterrorism. This is accomplished through
the Joint Task Force-Global Network Operations, which
is the operational component
supporting USSTRATCOM in defense of the DoD's Global
Information Grid. This is done by integrating GNO
capabilities into the operations of all DoD computers,
networks, and systems used by DoD combatant
commands, services and agencies.
An operation can be done by anyone anywhere in the
world, for it can be performed thousands of miles away
from a target.
An attack can cause serious damage to a critical
infrastructure which may result in casualties.
Attacking an infrastructure can be power grids,
monetary systems, dams, media, and personal
Some attacks are conducted in furtherance of political and
social objectives, as the following examples illustrate:
In 1996, a computer hacker allegedly associated with
the White Supremacist movement temporarily disabled
a Massachusetts ISP and damaged part of the ISP's
record keeping system.
The ISP had attempted to stop the hacker from sending
out worldwide racist messages under the ISP's name.
The hacker signed off with the threat, "you have yet to
see true electronic terrorism. This is a promise."
Case Study 2
In 1998, ethnic Tamil guerrillas attempted to disrupt Sri
Lankan embassies by sending large volumes of e-mail.
The embassies received 800 e-mails a day over a two-
The messages read "We are the Internet Black Tigers
and we're doing this to disrupt your communications."
Intelligence authorities characterized it as the first
known attack by terrorists against a country's computer
Case Study 3
In March 2013, the New York Times reported on a
pattern of cyber attacks against U.S. financial
institutions believed to be instigated by Iran as well
as incidents affecting South Korean financial
institutions that originate with the North Korean
Case Study 4
In August 2013, media companies including the New
York Times, Twitter and the Huffington Post lost control
of some of their websites Tuesday after hackers
supporting the Syrian government breached the
Australian Internet company that manages many major
The Syrian Electronic Army, a hacker group that has
previously attacked media organisations that it
considers hostile to the regime of Syrian president
Bashar al-Assad, claimed credit for the Twitter and
Huffington Post hacks in a series of Twitter messages.
Electronic records showed that NYTimes.com, the only
site with an hours-long outage, redirected visitors to a
server controlled by the Syrian group before it went
A vandal is an executable file, usually an applet or
an ActiveX control, associated with a Web page that is
designed to be harmful, malicious, or at the very least
inconvenient to the user.
Since such applets or little application programs can be
embedded in any HTML file, they can also arrive as an
e-mail attachment or automatically as the result of
being pushed to the user.
Vandals can be viewed as viruses that can arrive over
the Internet stuck to a Web page.
Vandals are sometimes referred to as "hostile applets."
Vandals can be harmful in two general ways:
They can get access to sensitive information within the
computer system where they execute, such as passwords
and encryption keys.
They can cause loss or denial of service within the local
computer system. For example, they can flood the system
with data so that it runs out of memory, or they can slow
down Internet connections.
The best way to protect yourself against a hostile applet is to
know who you are downloading a Web page from or who has
sent you an HTML page as an e-mail attachment.
Major corporate Web sites or major Web publishers are
unlikely to be the source of a vandal (but it can happen).