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This article aims at understanding the crucial elements of cyber space as stated; the meaning, regulation and scope.
I. Cyber Space – Meaning
The term cyber space has garnered numerous definitions and interpretations given by both experts and lexicographers. According to Adnan (2010), cyberspace is an unreal world where information is constantly transmitted through or between computers. On the other hand, the cyberspace according to Pfaffenberger (2000) refers to the virtual space that computer systems have aided in its creation.
In simple terms, the term cyberspace refers to a virtual computer world or an electronic medium which forms a global computer network so as to facilitate online communication.
The core feature of cyberspace is an extremely interactive virtual environment for an incredibly large range of participants. Through the cyberspace, users are allowed to share information, swap ideas, engage in social discussions, interact and play games, create media, conduct business and engage in multiple other activities.
The term cyberspace was introduced by William Gibson in his book “Neuromancer” in 1984. Although Gibson criticized the term by calling it redolent and meaningless, it is still used worldwide to describe facilities or features that are linked to the internet. Gibson initially explained the cyberspace as “a consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators in every nation.”
Programme developers such as Chip Morningstar stated that the cyberspace gained its popularity as a medium for social interaction as opposed to its technical execution and implementation. Thus, unlike most computer jargon, the term ‘cyberspace’ doesn’t have a standard or objective definition. Instead, it is simply used to describe the virtual world of computer systems that extends across a global network of computers.
Regulation of Cyber Space
The laws prevailing the area of cyberspace and the world of the internet is cyber law and the users of the area fall within the ambit of these cyber laws. Thus, cyber law is essentially the branch of law that deals with the legal issues which are related to the use of inter-networked information technology. The governing mechanisms and legal structures that oversee the growth of electric commerce in India fall within the domain of cyber law.
Cyber law essentially encompasses laws relating to electronic and digital signatures, cybercrimes, intellectual property, data protection and privacy. The major areas of cyber law includes defamation, fraud, copyright, harassment or stalking, trade secrets, freedom of speech, contracts and employment law.
Regulation and Legislation in India
Due to the increase in globalization, computerisation and the growth of e-commerce in the 90s, UNCITRAL adopted its Model Law on e-commerce in 1996.
The UN General Assembly then passed a resolution in 1997 recommending the States in the UN to give favourable considerations to the Model Law. The Government of India, against this background of the UN Model Law, enacted its IT Act in 2000.
Information Technology Act, 2000
The IT Act provides the legal infrastructure for e-commerce in India. It provides legal recognition for transactions that are carried out by means of electronic data interchange and other means of electronic communication.
Chapter II of the Act provides for the authenticity of a digital signature while Chapter III provides details about electronic governance along with the legal recognition of digital signatures. Regulation of the certifying authorities is provided for by Chapter IV. Additionally, penalties and adjudication for offences are provided within Chapter IX.
The Cyber Regulations Appellate Tribunal is governed by Chapter X and the rest of the Act also provides for the constitution of the Cyber Regulations Advisory Committee. The Act further proposes to amend the IPC, the Evidence Act, the RBI Act, the Bankers’ Books Evidence Act so as to make them in tune with the provisions of the IT Act.
II. Scope of Cyber Law
While there is no particular cyber law that is implemented in India, the IT Act provides for provisions to deal with cybercrimes as required. As a consequence of the Act being the only active legislation that governs the Indian cyberspace, the impact it has on India is enormous and consequential.
The scope of the IT Act thus is expansive since it makes the electronic format legal and provides that all electronic contracts with an offer are binding too. The law further enhances its scope by recognizing the importance of digital signatures and using it as a form of electronic authentication. Since it is the only Act in force, most of the cybercrimes are covered within the Act as well.
The scope of the IT Act is further heightened by including all intermediaries (service providers and companies who on behalf of a company/person shares or transmits any particular electronic record) and mandating them to exercise due diligence within the ambit of the law provided in the Act.
III. Threat to Cyber Space
While the cyberspace is being governed by the IT Act, cyber-attacks are becoming more prevalent by the day. One of the most common forms of attack is social media extortion wherein perpetrators make fake accounts, upload pictures of someone completely different and then send across messages to other accounts demanding money.
Other forms of cyber-attack include lottery frauds, movie piracy, unethical hacking, malware created to infect systems et cetera.
These cyber-attacks and other forms of cybercrimes pose a serious threat to the Indian cyberspace. While the IT Act works to combat these crimes, the legislation isn’t enough to stand on its own to face these ever-growing problems. With a rise in the technological era in India, we see the rise in cybercrimes too.
IV. Conclusion – Challenges, Criticisms and Suggestions
While the Indian cyberspace is governed by adequate legislation in India, there is a need for cyber policing that can successfully monitor ongoing activities and investigates cybercrimes while helping the police department catch the culprit.
Internet censorship in India isn’t as extreme as China’s, but the Indian Govt. is working towards tackling cybercrime at a more efficient rate. There are cyber police stations established in each State and they take care of cybercrimes that happen within that particular State.
These stations have investigation cells and monitoring cells dedicated to fighting cybercrime. These cyber stations are equipped with forensic analysis tools, imaging and other stations as required. However, there is no special equipment provided to these stations that may enhance computer security.
Thus, while the scope of the Act is expanded at large, it is important to provide individual attention to the cybercrimes that are currently growing at a rapid rate and evolving as new technology arrives. It is unclear whether the enactment of specific legislation to combat these crimes individually would actually help make the situation better, however, it is truly necessary that more attention is paid to these cybercrimes today.
- Information Technology Act, No. 21 of 2000, Acts of Parliament, 2000, India
- Cyber Laws in India, “IT Security of IIBF”, TaxMann Publishers
- Cherian Samuel and Munish Sharma, “India’s Strategic Options in a Changing Cyberspace”, Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis (2019)
- Arindrajit Basu and Elonnai Hickok, “Cyberspace and External Affairs: A Memorandum for India”, The Centre for Internet & Society (2018)
- Animesh Sharma, Roshmi Sharma, Amlan Jyoti Baruah, “A brief study on Cyber Crime and Cyber Laws of India”, International Research Journal of Engineering and Technology (2017)
- IDSA Task Force Report, “India’s Cyber Security Challenge”, Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis (2012)
- Ahmed Alnagrat, “An Overview of Contemporary Cyberspace Activities and the Challenging Cyberspace Crimes/Threats” (2014)
- Shrikant Ardhapurkar, Tanu Srivastava, Swati Sharma, Vijay Chaurasiya, Abhishek Vaish, “Privacy and Data Protection in Cyberspace in Indian Environment”, International Journal of Engineering Science and Technology (2010)
- Mangala Aiswarya and Aswathy Rajan, “IPR and Cyberspace – Indian Perspective with Special Reference to Software Piracy”, International Journal of Pure and Applied Mathematics (2018)