Hacking is undoubtedly one of the worst issues that one wants to deals with. Often I get to see women complaining about hacking of their social media accounts, people including men and women fearing about and getting victimized by way of hacking of their email accounts , net banking profiles and overall, the computer devices. New netizens are more prone to getting victimized by hacking; so are their parents if these netizens are pre-teens or teenagers. It is important to know some key factors which are associated with hacking. These are as below:
The five key factors which everyone should know about hacking:
1. The term hacking is not defined in any uniform style. Different researchers have defined hacking in different ways. All most all academic definitions have indicated that computer hacking or cyber hacking may mean unauthorized access to the computer, computer data etc, changing the data without any authorization etc. In a way, it is directly related to unauthorized data privacy infringement. A ‘smart’ example could be the allegedly unauthorized access into the personal documents including bank access details of the TRAI chief by the ethical hackers when the TRAI chief threw challenge that ADHAR ‘hack proof’.
2. Indian laws especially Information Technology Act, 2000 (amended in 2008) does not address the issue as “hacking”. The issue is dealt with by not one, but three Sections, namely, Ss. 65 which prescribes punishment for tampering with computer source documents, 66, which prescribes punishment for computer related offences and 43, which speaks about Penalty and compensation for damage to computer, computer system etc.
3. Hacking may literally start with unauthorized access or securing to the computer, computer system, computer network etc. Accessing or ‘securing access’ can be done by various ways. This may also include giving way to the hackers by opening suspicious mails/messages or links. It is for this reason that new users of internet and digital technology must be extremely cautious while opening suspicious mails/links etc.
4. Hacking may also include downloading/extracting data etc, modifying such data, reproducing that data in an altered form etc. It may also include unauthorized access to the computer or computer system or data etc and infecting the same with viruses which will immediately or gradually destroy all data, software etc stored in the computer and computer system. Hacking may necessarily include unauthorized accessing and then using of the computer network, email id, phone number or social media profile for impersonating and unethical gain. It is for this reason that often people complaint about hacking when their accounts have been unauthorisedly accessed, data extracted/accessed and modified and email ID/social media profiles etc are used for impersonating by way of a fake avatar.
5. Hacking may also involve denial of services, which is why a computer or computer system thus affected may not get connected to the internet easily and according to the wish of the real owner of the computer or computer system etc, but according to the wishes of the hacker only.
Now you may understand that when your computer shows activities which are not generally expected, you must be alarmed that your computer or the computer network or the computer system has been affected by hacking : typically your device may slow down for no reason, you may start getting to see that the data is altered, your net banking account or email or social media account’s password and username and the related phone number and email id may get changed without your authorization, your documents including your photo may get published or circulated elsewhere without your knowledge. Most scary of these is the camera device of your phone or laptop or Ipad (when they are on switch on mode) etc may become active even when you are not using the camera. It is for this reason that cyber security experts suggest to not to use the electronic devices when one expects complete privacy from the outside world, like when one is in the washroom.
So, what about the punishment?
Do Indian laws address hacking as “hacking” ? The answer is NO. But this does not mean that the act of hacking is not punishable. As discussed above, when the constituting elements mentioned under points nos 3, 4 and 5 create unauthorized access to the computer, computer system, data etc, Sections 65, 66 and 43 may immediately be applicable for booking the offences for tampering the computer source code, computer related offences and damage to the computer system etc. As such there are two types of punishments that are prescribed for hacking related offences : punishment as per civil offences which are regulated by S.43 and punishments as per criminal nature of the offence, which are regulated by Ss. 65 and 66. In the later, the punishments may include imprisonment for a period upto three years and/or fine which may extend to Rs. two lakhs. In case S.66 is applied, then the fine amount increases upto Rs. 5 lakhs. Again, if the act of hacking is judged as per S.43, then the provision would be read with S. 45 of the Information technology Act, which indicates that, a maximum of Rs. 25, 000/ may be paid as compensation to the victim for such offences (this is especially so because S.43 does not mention any specific amount of compensation and this lacuna is filled by S.45 which prescribes residuary penalty). However, the recent trend may show that most of hacking related cases had been booked under Ss. 66, 65 and 43 so that the perpetrators may undergo jail term as well as are bound to pay fine.
Interestingly, the Information Technology Act does not restrict the criminal liability to a specific age as is seen in the Indian penal code. Hence, even if it is a computer genius as young as 10 or 12 years of age, he/she may not escape the clutches of law in case he/she has done the offence/s which may constitute hacking. Considering their age and maturity level, Juvenile Justice (care and protection) Act , 2015 may also be applicable. Again, this would NOT mean that parents would be considered completely innocent. Very recently the courts in Gujarat had made the parents liable for underage kids driving two and four wheelers. If the children are arrested, the parents may have to pay for negligence in monitoring the wrong doing of their children.
I end this piece with a positive note: if we adults are aware, then our children will also be aware and we can prevent the digital as well as real life privacy infringement in a swift way.
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