Cyber Crimes And Counter-Measures
Mr. Aby A Thomas
The world has experienced major revolutions in the past decades both historically and sociologically which has facilitated the progressive advancement and development in the field of science, Technology and information. The 20th century witnessed the revolution of computers along with information and technology which has fostered its development in several parts of the world. The advent of science and technology, especially the rapid improvisation in the internet has facilitated the globalization of communications. The introduction of internet in the past decade has led to the creation of unparalleled opportunities in the field of commerce, entertainment, public discourse, education and research. Every new technology has got its own share of ill-effects in addition to the various advantages the technology possesses. The advent of improved technology has redefined the contours of white-collar crimes. Irrespective of caste, creed, color, any person with evil intentions who has access to such resources can abuse it. Cyber crime unheard of a few decades back, is spreading its ugly tentacles all over the society.
Cyber crime can happen to almost anyone who has an email-id, who is a member of the social networking website or even one who is doing on-line transaction to carry out business. Cyber crimes are offences committed against individuals or a group of individuals with a criminal motive to intentionally harm the reputation of the victim or cause physical or mental abuse to the victim directly or indirectly using modern telecommunication networks such as internet (chat rooms, e-mails) and mobile phones (sms/mms). Issues surrounding cyber crime have become high profile, particularly those surrounding hacking, internet stalking, cyber harassment, etc. The impact of victimization is highly critical such that, an individual would prefer to either hide himself / herself from the real world, or hover from one police station to another with a sole intention of making the police personnel understand the truth that reveals the occurrence and depth of the situation. However concerns are based on privacy, loss of evidence and also to a certain extent misinterpret the actual information.
In simple words, cyber crime is considered as an unlawful act that involves the misuse of computers. Computer systems are often used as a tool or target. Cyber crimes involves criminal activities that are traditional in nature. They are theft, fraud, forgery, defamation and mischief, all of which are subject to the Indian Penal Code. The abuse of computers has also given birth to a gamut of new-age crimes that are addressed by the Information Technology Act, 2000.
We can categorize Cybercrimes in two ways-
1. The computer as a Target:-using a computer to attack other computers.
Example Hacking, Virus/Worm attacks, DOS attack etc.
2. The computer as a weapon:-using a computer to commit real world crimes.
Example- Cyber Terrorism, IPR violations, Credit card frauds, EFT frauds, Pornography etc.
Cyber Crimes are regulated by Cyber laws or internet laws. Cyber-law or Internet law is a term that encapsulates the legal issues related to use of the Internet.
Technical Aspects: Technological advance-
ments have created new possibilities for criminal activity, in particular the criminal misuse of information technologies such as-
Unauthorized access & Hacking.
Trojan Attack / Virus and Worm attack
E-mail & IRC related crimes.
Denial of Service attacks.
I would like to throw some light out of my brief knowledge on a few very common trends that you can find these days in terms of misusing the Information technology.
- Unauthorized access & Hacking:- Access means gaining entry into, instructing or communicating with the logical, arithmetical or memory function resources of a computer, computer system or computer network. Unauthorized access would therefore mean any kind of access without the permission of either the owner or the person in charge of a computer, computer system or computer network. Every act committed towards unauthorized access into a computer and/or network is hacking. Hackers are those people who exploit the fragility in a computer network and try to gain unauthorized access to your computer. The inspiration behind such hacking could be myriad, like profit, disagreement, pleasure etc. Hackers write or use ready-made computer programs to attack the target computer. This is normally done through the use of a ‘backdoor’ program installed on your machine. You can protect yourself from such provocation by using a firewall and a good up-to-date anti-virus program. You would normally get such a backdoor program by opening an E-mail attachment containing the backdoor program. Some Hackers possess the desire to destruct and they get the kick out of such destruction. Some hackers hack for personal monetary gains, such as to stealing the credit card information, transferring money from various bank accounts to their own account followed by withdrawal of money.
- Trojan Attack/ Virus and Worm Attack: Trojans are malicious programs that perform actions that have not been authorized by the user. These actions can include:
Disrupting the performance of computers or computer networks- Unlike computer viruses and worms, Trojans are not able to self-replicate. Basically Trojans are programs that act like something useful but do the things that are quiet damping. You can keep your gadgets including PCs, laptops, Macs, tablets and smart phones insulated from these Trojans by installing effective anti-malware software.
- E-mail & IRC related crimes: Email has fast emerged as the world’s most preferred form of communication. Billions of email messages traverse the globe daily. Like any other form of communication, email is also misused by criminal elements. The ease, speed and relative anonymity of email has made it a powerful tool for criminals.
Some of the major E-mail related crimes are:
1. Email spoofing
2. Sending malicious codes through Email
3. Email bombing
4. Sending threatening Emails
5. Defamatory Emails
6. Email frauds
A spoofed email is one that appears to originate from one source but has actually emerged from another source. Falsifying the name and / or email address of the originator of the email usually does email spoofing. Certain web-based email services like www.SendFakeMail.com, offer a facility wherein in addition to the above, a sender can also enter the email address of the purported sender of the email.
Emails are often the fastest and easiest ways to propagate malicious code over the Internet. The Love Bug virus, for instance, reached millions of computers within 36 hours of its release from the Philippines. Hackers often bind Trojans, viruses, worms and other computer contaminants with e-greeting cards and then email them to unsuspecting persons. Such contaminants can also be bound with software that appears to be an anti-virus patch.
E-mail bombing refers to sending a number of emails to the victim resulting in the victim’s email account (in case of an individual) or servers (in case of a company or an email service provider) crashing. E-mail “bombing” is characterized by abusers, through repeatedly sending an identical email message to a particular address. A simple way of achieving this would be to subscribe the victim’s email address to a large number of mailing lists.
Email spoofing is very often used to commit financial crimes. It is a simple thing not only to assume someone else’s identity but also to hide one’s own. The person committing the crime understands that there is very little chance of him actually being identified. The most rampant Email fraud these days often originate from the fraudsters known as Nigerian Spammers which is known worldwide as “The Nigerian Spam” This Spam has run a profit of Five Billion US$ as of 1996, and much more now. It is also referred as the “Advance Fee Fraud”, “419 Fraud”. The Scam operates as follows: the target receives an unsolicited fax, email, or letter often concerning Nigeria or another African nation containing either a money laundering or other illegal proposal OR you may receive a Legal and Legitimate business proposal by normal means. Most of the emails these fraudsters pose say that you have won and thousands or millions and the content of these emails have a legal image.
Email is a useful tool for technology savvy criminals but thanks to the relative anonymity offered by it. It becomes fairly easy for anyone with even a basic knowledge of computers to become a blackmailer by threatening someone via e-mail. At some point, the victim is asked to pay up front an Advance Fee of some sort, be it an “Advance Fee”, “Transfer Tax”, “Performance Bond”, or to extend credit, grant COD privileges, send back “change” on an overage cashier’s check or money order, whatever. If the victim pays the Fee, there are often many “complications” which will require more advance payments until the victim either quits, runs out of money, or both.
One has to be aware and vigil of such Email frauds since most of us has an email address.
The literal meaning of the term ‘Pornography’ is “describing or showing sexual acts in order to cause sexual excitement through books, films, etc.” This would include pornographic websites; pornographic material produced using computers and use of internet to download and transmit pornographic videos, pictures, photos, writings etc. Adult entertainment is the largest industry on internet. There are more than 420 million individual pornographic web pages today. Research shows that 50% of the websites containing potentially illegal contents relating to child abuse were ‘Pay-Per-View’. This indicates that abusive images of children over Internet have been highly commercialized. Pornography delivered over mobile phones is now a burgeoning business, “driven by the increase in sophisticated services that deliver video clips and streaming video, in addition to text and images.” Pornography on the Internet is available in different formats. These range from pictures and short animated movies, to sound files and stories. Although the Indian Constitution guarantees the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression; on the other hand constitution has its own law for obscenity. The Supreme Court has defined obscene as “offensive to modesty or decency; lewd, filthy, repulsive”. Section 67 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 penalizes cyber pornography. Other Indian laws that deal with pornography include the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act and the Indian Penal Code.
One need to understand that nothing on the Internet is free though most of us would readily fall for anything that says free software or programs that are available in the internet.
We tend to use pirated or cracked software, programs, applications, operating systems etc., if they are freely available on the internet. Such usage will cause many issues such as violation of Vendor laws as well as rules like outlaws, security problems; copyright infringement etc. and will thereby levy a hefty fine or Jail if subjected to IT laws. Secondly, no support will be extended from the part of the vendors who supplied with such software as they would be either pirated or a cracked version. Finally and not least, it is considered ethically wrong and also is similar to theft. We as born again Christians should be responsible enough to take a stance of Integrity.
The Internet can be both helpful and hindering to people of all ages. For children and students Internet provides a vast library of knowledge. Students literally have the world at their fingertips. Any topic can be researched at any time, whether it is day or night. For adults, it is still a wonderful resource of information about diseases, world news, parenting tips, and many other things. The internet, however, can be harmful to children and adults in quite a few ways. Online predators are always out preying on those who by unknowingly will give away their personal information, the most vulnerable are the children. Due to the advent of Social Media and Social Networking websites, the internet or the chat rooms in the social media have become the new playground for sexual predators. The Internet gives them the anonymity they need to lure unsuspecting children into inappropriate conversations and in some cases meeting with them. There are laws that keep predators away from parks and schools, but no laws restrict them to the Internet. One has to be very careful in furnishing personal information in the social media websites and other sites which requests you to fill out forms seeking personal information of an individual by luring with great online offers and advantages including online shopping offers and free downloads. By filling out forms they will be able to replicate the passwords that one has set for your Email Ids and personal banking. The concept is simple; most people will create passwords which have some of their personal information like date of birth, name of the parents, spouses, children, birth town etc. By obtaining this personal information through online forms fraudsters will be able to predict your passwords through trial and error using password generators.
Firewall: A firewall is a system designed to prevent unauthorized access to or from a private network. Firewalls can be implemented in both hardware and software or a combination of both. Firewalls are frequently used to prevent unauthorized Internet users from accessing private networks connected to the Internet, especially Intranets. All messages entering or leaving the intranet pass through the firewall, which examines each message and blocks those that do not meet the specified security criteria. Now this is a firewall technology that can be used on your computers or networks.
I would like to emphasize on a more important Firewall, the one that can guard your hearts. In the Bible, the book of Proverbs 4: 23 says “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do, flows from it”. We need to guard our hearts, which is the well spring of life. “Precaution is better than Cure”, isn’t it better to take the stance of Joseph and Daniel, who ran away from evil than facing the dangers of falling into evil. Firewall acts as a resistance and on technical aspects this requires a configuring accordingly to ensure ‘restriction of the unwanted as whatever is required should be’. The same holds good in the spiritual aspect. Configure your hearts and minds to be submissive to God and His holiness and to restrict the evil. James 4:7 says, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you”. I urge all the youngsters to be responsible users of the Social Media understanding all the ill effects of Social media and Social Networking. You lose privacy compared to not being on a social network. Everything you post on the internet is designed to be there for ages. You can be victimized to online bullying and identity thefts, so be on guard. As the Bible say, “Be wise like a serpent and innocent like dove”.