Cyber law is one area where IT professionals and legal experts have to work in tandem to protect users, empower enforcement agencies, and punish offenders.

Computer and Internet are being used every day by billions of people around the globe. For example, on June 30, 2010 nearly 197 crore of people used the Internet, which works out to 28.7 per cent of the world population.

The penetration of the Internet grows at a rapid rate even in underdeveloped countries. Almost all financial, industrial, and commercial institutions make use of the Internet for their regular work. Any area involving heavy monetary transactions is a fertile ground for criminals.

Appropriate steps have to be evolved and implemented for the prevention of crimes and the punishment of the criminals through due legal processes. This emphasises the relevance of cyber law.

Cybercrimes have unique features distinct from those of traditional styles of crimes. The criminals aim not only at swindling money. They cast their nets far and wide. Cybercrimes include offences including theft of data, copyright violation, IPR violation, online transfer of bank deposits by fraud, forgery, identity theft, unauthorised access to computers, DoS attack (denial-of-service attack), hacking, stalking, sending offensive or pornographic material through e-mail, defamation, illegal gathering and dissemination of information through Internet, e-mail spamming, damaging computer programs through illegal access, computer sabotage, spreading computer viruses, computer espionage, fraudulent e-commerce activities and cyber terrorism.

Cyber law is one area where IT professionals and legal experts have to work in tandem to protect users, empower enforcement agencies, and punish offenders. Crime investigation has to be supported by technically trained IT experts. Knowledge is the most vital aspect in unearthing cyber crimes. Lawyers unable to handle electronic documents can do precious little in this field.

There has been legislation bringing forth regulation of information technology activities in many States. Since cyber crimes would cross national boundaries, the evidence gathered and processed will have to stand the judicial scrutiny at the international level.

The Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000, is a landmark document in cyber regulations in the country. The Act provides, among other things, “legal recognition for transactions carried out by means of electronic data interchange and other means of electronic communication, commonly referred to as "electronic commerce", which involve the use of alternatives to paper-based methods of communication and storage of information, to facilitate electronic filing of documents with the Government agencies and further to amend the Indian Penal Code, the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, the Bankers' Books Evidence Act, 1891 and the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934 and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.”

Lawyers have to be conversant with the latest IT technologies which cyber criminals regularly adopt. There are special training programmes in cyber crime investigation for police officers at the State and national levels. There has to be specialist lawyers handling cyber crime cases. Members of the bench should also get enlightened on the latest tactics of cyber criminals.

The tie-up between technology and law has been described by the NALSAR University of Law in a telling style: “In the ambit of technology and law, law has always been at the curve of the highway chasing the developments of technology and ends often issuing violation tickets. Law needs to provide a road map to technology with appropriate signals and speed breakers for its safe driving.”

There is rise in cyber crimes; but lack of prompt reporting keeps many offenders in the dark. As in many other types of crimes, conviction rate is very low in cyber crimes for various reasons. Users often develop a false sense of cyber security cover and consequently an attitude of complacency that may land them in serious trouble.

Avenues for learning cyber law

Courses in cyber law cover syllabus areas including the following:

Computer crimes

Computer networks

Cyber contracts and Indian legal position

Data protection and privacy

Databases

e-banking and legal issues

e-commerce

Electronic and digital signatures

Electronic contracts

Indian penal law and cyber crimes

Intellectual property

International taxation in e-commerce

Internet operations

Investigation of cyber crimes

Issues of internet governance

Jurisdiction of cyber space

Legal issues in internet copyrights

Patents

Security and evidence in e-commerce

Software

Taxation issues in cyber space

Telecommunications laws

Understanding cyber crimes

Institutions and programmes

NALSAR Proximate Education, NALSAR University of Law, Hyderguda, Hyderabad, offers one-year postgraduate diploma in cyber law. The programme has been designed to meet the requirements of professionals in the fields of science, technology, media and human rights. In the distance mode, the university offers contact seminar classes during weekends at different centres including Hyderabad, Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi. Phone: 040-23210322; e-mail: admissions@ nalsarpro.org; Web: www.nalsarpro.org.

The Indian Law Institute, Bhagwan Dass Road, New Delhi offer courses for those who have passed their diploma courses after Plus Two. Areas such as cyber world, regulatory framework, cyber crimes and e-commerce will be covered in the programme. Phone: 011-23387426; email: ili@ilidelhi.org, ili@ili.ac.in; web site: www.ili.ac.in; www.ilidelhi.org.

The Indian Institute of Information Technology, Deoghat, Jahlwa, Allahabad, offers two-year long Master of Science in cyber law and information security, details given in last week's article on cyber security.

Asian School of Cyber Laws, sixth floor, Pride Senate, Senapati Bapat Road, Pune, offers the following courses:

Postgraduate programme in cyber law: This is an advanced level career-oriented programme suitable for lawyers, police officials, management professionals, chartered accountants and company secretaries as well as students of commerce and law. Duration of course is eight months in classroom mode, and 12 months in distance mode.

Postgraduate programme in cyber crime investigation and defence: Duration of the course is 12 months in distance mode.

Diploma in cyber law: Duration of the course is six months in distance mode.

Advanced programme in international cyber law: Duration of the course is 12 months in distance mode. Phone: 020-25667148; e-mail: info@asianlaws.org; Web: www.asianlaws.org. The school has centres in Mumbai and Delhi also.

Naavi's Cyber Law College, Ujvala, 37, 20th Main, B.S.K. Stage I, Bangalore, offers diploma course in cyber laws. The course is offered online. Duration of the course is six months. Graduates in any subject can apply. Email: clc@naavi.org; web site: www.cyberlawcollege.com.

Indira Gandhi National Open University, Maidan Garhi, New Delhi, offers postgraduate certificate in cyber law. The course is offered through two modes — virtual education in law and open distance learning. Graduates in any discipline or fourth/ fifth year students of the five-year integrated L.L.B. course who have passed all the papers in their first three years are eligible to apply. The duration of the programme may vary from six months to two years. The subjects covered include cyber space technology and social issues, regulation of cyberspace, commerce and cyberspace and privacy and data protection. Web site: www.ignou.ac.in.

There are other universities like the University of Hyderabad (postgraduate diploma in cyber laws and Intellectual Property Rights), and Bharati Vidyapeeth (Deemed University), Pune, (Diploma in Cyber Laws) which conduct programmes either through distance education or through face-to-face classes.

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