Computer Crime Research Center


Remoteness of cyber crimes makes it different

Date: January 18, 2005
Source: The Financial Express

When William Sutton, the infamous bandit, was asked why he robbed banks, his answer was simple. “Because that is where the money is”. Stripped from the technological jargon, the world of cyber crime isn’t all that different. Like the physical world, it consists of people, transactions, commerce, money and yes - crime.

Cyber crime mirrors crime in the physical world. Fraud, pornography, impersonation, espionage, identity theft, extortion, prostitution, racketeering and plain old-fashioned stealing. It’s all been done before the internet age and perhaps will continue to be an essential part of the human society through all its technological progress.

Having said that, cyber crime does introduce some new elements to crime. Most crimes do not involve or affect the average Joe. That is why you can go to the office without being robbed, your child is not kidnapped in ordinary circumstances and that your valuables are safe at home.

Cyber crime however, affects almost everybody who uses the internet and in many cases, also those who don’t.

One of the key elements that keeps most members of any society honest is fear of being caught — the deterrence factor. Cyberspace changes two of those rules. First, it offers the criminal an opportunity of attacking his victims from the remoteness of a different continent and secondly, the results of the crime are not immediately apparent. For example, a BPO located in India could be attacked from Romania and the data it is holding on behalf of an European client could be sold several times over without the owner or the custodian even knowing about it.

And that brings us to what is perhaps one of the most dangerous elements of cyber crime. Loss of credibility. Anti-outsourcing lobbies in the US and Europe are citing information security and privacy as one of the main reasons why information (aka work) should not be sent to countries like India. Unless we can convincingly demonstrate our ability to withstand attacks from cyber threats, the losses we may suffer cannot be measured in mere dollar terms.

India has made a good beginning in combating cyber crimes by being one of the few countries to have adopted the Information Technology Act, 2000. But the Act as it stands is seen to have its share of bumps and potholes.

Cyber crime is here to stay. With computer users and internet connectivity growing geometrically in the country, curbing and controlling cyber crime is going to be a difficult task for the (cyber) law enforcers. India will have to make the IT Act more comprehensive to cover all facets of cyber crime.

We have a Herculean task staring at us in the face — the task of educating netizens on the complexities of cyber crime and how to fight it. This could be achieved by making internet users aware of their rights and duties as visitors of cyber space.

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