Cyber Crimes Against Women And Laws In India
“Time is now here to exculpate that our women are safe in cyber world, the memento alarms to stop tomfoolery activities on internet access as it is an offence and women take umbrage from it”
Every second, one woman in India gets tricked to be a victim of cyber crimes and the online platform is now the new platform where a woman’s dignity, privacy and security is increasingly being challenged every moment. Trolling, abusing, threatening, stalking, voyeurism, body-shaming, defaming, surveillance, revenge porn and other forms of indecent representation of women are rampant in the cyber world. In cyber crimes against women, the effect is more mental than physical while the focus of the laws ensuring women’s security is more on physical than mental harm. It is true that the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) of India does not maintain any separate record of cyber-crimes against women. Technology is the resource used by some perpetrators who target to defame women by sending obscene WhatsApp messages, e-mail, stalking women by using chat rooms, websites, and worst of all by developing pornographic videos, mostly created without their consent, spoofing e-mails, morphing of images for pornographic content by using various softwares available online. Indian women are not able to report cyber crimes immediately as they are not really aware as to where to report such crimes or are not serious about reporting the same due to social embarrassment they don’t want to face. Their mindset needs to broaden and they must be the whip to curb down by taking derring-do against such perpetrators, that is to go ahead and lodge an immediate complaint. Most of the problems can be solved if women report the crime immediately and warn the abuser about taking strong legal action.
Cyber crimes incept generally through fake ids created on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms causing grave harm to women, as through these platforms, major blackmailing, threatening, bullying, or cheating via messenger messages and email are done by perpetrators. Ill-intentioned men perpetrate these cyber-crimes with malafide intention such as illegal gain, revenge, insult to the modesty of a woman, extortion, blackmailing, sexual exploitation, defamation, incite hate against the community, prank satisfaction of gaining control and to steal information.
Some of the major well-known cyber crimes have put thousands of women into various health issues such as depression, hypertension and women suffer from anxiety, heart disease, diabetic and thyroid ailments due to e-harassment.
Major cyber crimes are as under:
- Cyberstalking: Cyberstalking is on the rise and women are the most likely targets. Cyberstalking is a way to use the Internet to stalk someone for online harassment and online abuse. A cyberstalker does not engage in direct physical threat to a victim but follows the victim’s online activity to gather information, make threats in different forms of verbal intimidation. The anonymity of online interaction reduces the chance of identification and makes cyberstalking more common than physical stalking.
- Defamation: Cyber defamation includes both libel and defamation. It involves publishing defamatory information about the person on a website or circulating it among the social and friends circle of victims or organization which is an easy method to ruin a woman’s reputation by causing her grievous mental agony and pain.
- Morphing and cyber pornography: Morphing is highly increasing it is done by editing the original picture to misuse it. Perpetrators due to internet access can in few seconds download women’s pictures from social media, WhatsApp or some other resources and upload morphed photos on other websites such as social media site, porn sites or for registering themselves anonymously. Cyber-pornography is another threat to women because this includes publishing pornographic materials in pornography websites by using computers and internet wherein women will not even be aware of such immoral publication of their own very image.
- E-mail spoofing: It refers to an email that emerges from one source but has been sent from another source. It can cause monetary damage.
- Phishing: Phishing is the attempt to gain sensitive information such as username and password and intent to gain personal information.
- Trolling: Trolls spreads conflict on the Internet, criminal starts quarreling or upsetting victim by posting inflammatory or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the intention to provoke victims into an emotional, upsetting response). Trolls are professional abusers who, by creating and using fake ids on social media, create a cold war atmosphere in the cyber space and are not even easy to trace.
Under the Information and Technology Act, 2000, stalkers and cybercriminals can be booked under several sections for breaching of privacy:
- Section 67 deals with publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form. The earlier section in ITA was later widened as per ITAA 2008 in which child pornography and retention of records by intermediaries were all included.
- Section 66A: Sending offensive messages through communication service, causing annoyance etc., through an electronic communication or sending an email to mislead or deceive the recipient about the origin of such messages (commonly known as IP or email spoofing) are all covered here. Punishment for these acts is imprisonment up to three years or fine.
- Section 66B: Dishonestly receiving stolen computer resource or communication device with punishment up to three years or one lakh rupees as fine or both.
- Section 66C: Electronic signature or other identity theft like using others’ password or electronic signature etc.
- Section 66D: Cheating by person on using computer resource or a communication device shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which extends to three years and shall also be liable to fine which may extend to one lakh rupee.
- Section 66E: Privacy violation – Publishing or transmitting private area of any person without his or her consent etc. Punishment is three years imprisonment or two lakh rupees fine or both.
- Section 66F: Cyber terrorism – Intent to threaten the unity, integrity, security or sovereignty of the nation and denying access to any person authorized to access the computer resource or attempting to penetrate or access a computer resource without authorization.
- Section 72: Punishment for breaching privacy and confidentiality.
- Section 72A: Punishment for disclosing information during lawful contract.
- Section 441 IPC: This section deals with criminal trespassing.
- Section 354D: This section deals with stalking. It defines stalker as a man who follows a woman and tries to contact such woman, monitors every activity undertaken by the woman while using digital media.
Key points on how to protect yourself from getting victimized to cyber crimes are as under:
- Don’t share passwords
It may sound silly. Who in their right mind shares their password, right?
Wrong. You may have shared your password with a trusted friend or partner. According to the Norton Cyber Crime Report, two in three people believe it’s riskier to share their email password with a friend than lend them their car. The fear is reasonable. While friends may not intentionally cause you harm, they may accidentally reveal your password to someone. Sometimes relationships change before your password does. Use your discretion and keep those passwords private and complicated.
- Don’t leave your webcam connected
There are too many apps capable of turning on your camera and slyly recording your movements without your knowledge. As a precaution disable camera permission and keep the lens of your camera closed or covered when not in use.
- Don’t share more than necessary
Relationships have only two shades in a spectrum – very good or very bad. Even the best of people can swing from one end of the spectrum to the other. That is why use caution when you share intimate messages, pictures, information or anything that has the potential to come back and embarrass you.
- Don’t meet online acquaintances alone:
Always let your friends and family know where you are going and who you are meeting. Make sure you meet the person in a crowded coffee shop or mall.
- Reveal only as much as needed:
There are too many sinister characters browsing social media sites to initiate friendship with unsuspecting women. Be careful about posting details about your whereabouts and lifestyle. Stalkers can find ways to reach you with a simple photograph or status update.
- Update all operating systems on your devices
They can be a nuisance. But they are very important to keep you safe. Security updates and patches keep the latest threats away. Always install them no matter how busy you are.
- Secure your devices with anti-virus software
Having a mobile phone or a tablet without a security system in place is like sitting in a house with the doors unlocked. Both Android and Mac devices are at risk from malicious software invading and taking over your life. Always install a reliable security system like Norton Security in all your devices.
- Read the fine print
- There is no such thing as ‘freebies’
Freebies come as games, offers, deals, etc. They may be riddled with viruses, spyware and malicious software. These can get into your device and mine all your data.
- Block people you don’t want to interact with
Never feel weird declining friend requests from people you barely know. Trust your instinct and ignore, unfriend or block them. You get to choose who stays on your friend list.
When it comes to safety, both online and offline, common sense is the first line of defense. Your instincts play a critical role in your protection. If something feels ‘off’, go with your instincts. You don’t have to explain your reasoning to anyone.
Reporting a cyber crime
The procedure for reporting cyber crimes is more or less the same as for reporting any other kind of offence. The local police stations can be approached for filing complaints just as the cybercrime cells specially designated with the jurisdiction to register complaint. In addition, provisions have now been made for filing of ‘E-FIR’ in most of the states. Women safety is a must and the police in our country must be well trained to resolve complaints of cyber crime made by women and cognizance of the same must be taken very seriously. Every police station must have expert-trained police officer who can immediately deal with cyber crime complaints made. If a police station refuses to register the complaint, a representation may be given to the commissioner of police/superintendent of police. If in spite of that action is not taken, the next step could either be a private complaint before the concerned court or a writ before the high court.
“If There Is Cyber Crime, Women Start Reporting Right Now”.
Dhruti M Kapadia is Solicitor and Advocate-on-Record at Supreme Court of India.
[The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of LiveLaw and LiveLaw does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same]