Twenty-first century is an era of development of science and technology around the globe. We all know that every action has equal and opposite reaction, therefore it can rightly be said that everything in this universe has two aspects, positive and negative. Technological advancement on one hand, has led to the development of the world in every sphere be it education, trade, commerce, science, research, to connecting people all across the globe, proving to be a boon for all; on the other hand it has also been a curse to the mankind because of the misuse and the related repercussions.
The present world is all about dwelling virtually. Human folks are more dependent on social media rather than their real world. Everyone and everything on social media seems fascinating and extravagance. Social media has become a part and parcel of one’s life. It is tough, imagining life without social media and technology these days. The more we are growing our dependence on the internet, the more we are making ourselves prone to the vulnerability caused due to the disruptions in cyberspace. As said before, technology has joined millions but has also affected many due to the malpractices over the internet. This article hereby discusses the various cyber threats occurring through the internet along with the security protocols.
Taking into consideration the motives and acts of the perpetrators, cyber threats can be divided into four groups –
- Cyber Attacks/ Cyber Crimes
- Cyber Espionage
- Cyber Terrorism
- Cyber Warfare
1. Cyber Attacks/ Cyber Crimes
Cyber Crime is any type of offensive act practiced by any individual or a group or organization which targets computer-based information systems, computer networks, infrastructures intending to destroy the network or to damage the individual’s reputation. Cybercrime these days is a great threat for people because the one attacking us can be from any corner of the world wearing a veil and can remain unknown and untouched. The increasing online population has proved a happy hunting ground for cybercriminals, with losses due to cyber-crime being in billions of dollars worldwide. Cyberspace is increasingly being used for various criminal activities and different types of cybercrimes, causing huge financial losses to both businesses and individuals. Organized crime mafia have been drawn to cyberspace, and this is being reflected in cybercrimes gradually shifting from random attacks to direct and targeted attacks. A cyber underground economy is flourishing based on an ecosystem facilitated by the exploitation of zero-day vulnerabilities, attack toolkit, and botnets. The vast amount of money lubricating this ecosystem is leading to increased sophistication of malicious codes such as worms and trojans. The creation of sophisticated information-stealing malware is facilitated by toolkits such as ZueS, which are sold on the internet for a few thousands of dollars. The continuing trend for internet users in India was that threat landscape being heavily infested with worms and viruses.
2. Cyber Espionage
Cyber Espionage in India is comparatively found at higher rates than cybercrime. It refers to any act or practice wherein someone obtains certain confidential information about the user or the holder without the consent using the internet and through cracking the security firewalls with the help of techniques and technology and also malicious software including trojan horses and spyware. These acts include personal, sensitive, proprietary, defense and military information which is done to anyone be it an individual, group, organization, or to the government as well with a motive of maybe personal revenge, enmity to military advantage, political rivalry or might be economic gains. In other words, Cyber Espionage is “the use of computer networks to gain illicit access to secret information, typically that held by a government or other organization.
Instances of Cyber Espionage is common nowadays. Every other day we come across news where someone’s social media profile has been hacked, a bank account has been hacked or they are receiving threats over the internet, confidential photos and videos are being leaked or certain things are being posted over the internet to defame a person’s reputation.
If we trace the records of cyber espionage from a few years back we can easily observe one type of it that is bank fraud. Bank fraud has been common these days wherein the hacker makes a fraudulent call to the bank account holder and interestingly they tend to target elderly aged people because they are less aware of the technicalities and are not well accustomed to the bank terminologies or formalities. Thereafter the hacker tends to gather all bank details (which includes credit card details, debit card number, CVV, UPI id, OTP, etc.) of the account holder and within no time the entire balance is transferred from the real account to some unknown fraud account. Cases of such instances are allegedly found every other day. Another such bank fraud which is observed not so frequently but then it happens to be so that certain software is installed in the bank data system from where in regards to every transaction made in that particular bank the hacker receives some amount which is deducted from the account holders with a reference of bank maintenance. These acts are of some master heads in technology who chose to opt for these fraud paths. According to some reports it was found that the team of hackers belong to regions of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Punjab, and Bengaluru. With regard to such crimes, a Netflix series was also released titled “Jamtara – Sabka Number Ayega”.
Keeping aside the bank fraud we can also observe cyberbullying and social media hacking, cyber harassment, etc. Cyberbullying is one where any individual receives threat messages over the internet or some derogatory posts are being posted on the internet to defame an individual. Social media hacking and harassment are two sides of the same coin. Here the social media account of any individual is hacked and thereby is harassed for the same. In this regard recently a month or two before, we had observed three cases of cyber bullying back to back. Firstly the case of ‘Boys Locker Room’ where a group of Delhi based teenage boys started a group chat where they discussed pornography and other related stuffs that have a direct relation to rape culture. The next incident that we have observed was a girl who was opened a fake profile to check the intentions of her male best friend. Thirdly we have seen a case where a boy commits suicide because he was falsely alleged for attempting rape to a girl. He was constantly receiving threat over the internet through messages, calls, and post by the girl and the society who nowadays tends to be “The Court” or “The Learned Judges” without a law degree have already declared him as the rapist. The boy unable to take up such action finally decides to end up his life.
So from these instances, we can observe that where we are heading in relation to cyberbullying or cyber espionage.
3. Cyber Terrorism
Cyber Terrorism is nothing but those acts of terrorism which are related to cyberspace or executed using cyber technologies. Section 66F of the Information Technology Act, 2000 mentions cyber terrorism. It is defined as causing denial, illegal access, introducing a virus in any of the critical information infrastructure of the country defined u/s 70 with the intent to threaten the unity, integrity, security or sovereignty of India or strike terror in the people or any section of the people, or gaining illegal access to data or database that is restricted for reasons of the security of the state or friendly relations with foreign states.
Cyber terrorism has been used as a conduit by terrorists, for –
- planning command and control
- funding purpose
- planning the terrorist attack
- spreading propaganda in the form of malicious content online to brainwash using their myopic ideological view
4. Cyber Warfare
Cyber warfare is still an evolving concept because of its recent origin. It is believed to be the fifth domain of warfare. Cyber Warfare can be defined as the actions of a nation or a state to attack by penetrating into the computer network and database system of another nation or state with a motive to cause disruption and damage. Cyber Warfare can be done through two ways
- Cyber exploitation
In order to combat the cyber threats, the government decided to come up with legislation so that the acts are made punishable offences. Thereinafter the Information Technology Act was enforced in the year 2000 and later the act was amended in the year 2000 to make it best suitable to pace with the increasing cybercrimes. The punishments under the act are mentioned in Sections 66 and 67
|Sending offensive message, including attachments, through communication service||66A||imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and with a fine.|
|Dishonesty receiving stolen computer resources or communication device||66B||imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years or with fine which may extend to rupees one lakh or with both|
|Identity theft||66C||punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine which may extend to rupees one lakh.|
|Cheating by personating||66D||punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine which may extend to one lakh rupees|
|Violation of privacy||66E||punished with imprisonment which may extend to three years or with fine not exceeding two lakh rupees, or with both.|
|Cyber terrorism||66F||punishable with imprisonment which may extend to imprisonment for life.|
|Publishing or transmitting of material containing sexually explicit act in electronic form||67A||A first conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years and with fine which may extend to ten lakh rupees and in the event of second or subsequent conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years and also with fine which may extend to ten lakh rupees.|
|Publishing or transmitting of material depicting children in sexually explicit act||67B||first conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years and with fine which may extend to ten lakh rupees and in the event of second or subsequent conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years and also with fine which may extend to ten lakh rupees|
|Preservation and retention of information by intermediaries as may be specified for such duration and in such manner and format as the central government may prescribe||67C||punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and also be liable to fine|
However, these punishments are provided yet we feel the need for more stringent application of them which the administration has failed to provide to the public. Therefore it’s an urgent need for the society to upgrade the Act and its application to make it more effective.
1 Information Technology Act, 2000.