Cyber Crime: Are you Safe?

Man is insatiable by nature and uses innovative methods to make new discoveries. What was a dream for our ancestors is a reality for us. Technological revolution has brought the whole world under one umbrella. The world has become a gloabl village. Gone are the days when we used to wait for the letters. Now we can send and receive mails within a few seconds. Loads of information can be acquired with a click of a mouse. This is all possible because of computer and internet that has made our lives fast and comfortable. E-commerce, e- banking, e- learning, e-governance are gaining popularity.

However, gain and loss go in hand in hand. Computer has made us vulnerable or rather; we have made it a tool of destruction. The criminals have found new and more fraudulent means to achieve their nefarious goals. A study by researchers at the University of Brighton titles ‘Crime Online: Cyber crime and illegal innovation revealed high-rise of cyber crime in India, China, Russia and Brazil. It also stated that India has witnessed rise in cyber crimes because of large number of call centres that have come up in recent years.

In simple words, a cyber crime is any activity done on a computer to harm people, property and the Government. Since it assures anonymity and easy access across borders so, it has become an easy means of carrying illegal activities. The miscreants vary from young school goers to professional thiefs. While the former may do it just for fun, the latter does it with a purpose. No one knows when and how he would become a victim of fraud. We can encounter serious threats from various sources:

1) Fake emails: Attractive mails with heading “Congrats you have won a lottery” can actually make us bankrupt.

2) Email Bombing: The miscreant sends large chunk of mails to disrupt the mail account of any person or mail server of a company.

3) Denial of service- Bombarding a web server with so many requests that it crashes down. Distributed Denial of service attack is a deliberate attempt by several miscreants at the same time to disrupt a server. This obstructs the access of other people.

4) Web jacking- is when someone gains access to a password of a website and misuses it.

5) Phising- aims to get personal information by making the user to access a particular website

6) Pharming- the user is directed to a fake website without his knowledge.

7) Malware- is a programme to gain control and damage the computer without the knowledge of the user. Viruses, worms, spyware, and trojans are malware. It can come from infected CDs, pen drive, downloads, mails etc. Graphics and sound files are safe but executable files can carry virus. The virus gets attached and circulates to the files of a computer and its networks. A worm multiples itself to consume all the space in computer’s memory or hard disc but does not alter or delete files. A spyware is like a spy that can come either with mail attachments or with other installed programme. Trojan looks like an authorized programme, which does not replicate itself but can actually corrupt the data.

8 ) Internet time theft- When someone else fraudulently makes use of internet hours paid by another user.

9) Publishing false digital signatures

10) Cyber stalking- is following a person on internet and troubling him through mails etc.

11) Intellectual Property Fraud- patent, copyright violations.

12) Drug trafficking- Traffickers fix deals online

13) Online pornography- Internet has become a hub of sexually explicit material. Innocent children are a target of paedophiles.

14) Identity theft- A miscreant hacks and alters the information in computer and also uses it to access bank accounts, commit credit card frauds etc.

Computer is a boon if used in a productive manner but unfortunately, it has become a tool to cause damage. In 2005 in Pune, few BPO employees transferred huge sum of money from a bank to their own accounts. Several deadly viruses like Melissa, Chernobyl, I LOVE YOU etc. have caused severe global financial loss in the past. In 2002, Sony India Private Ltd had lodged a complaint against a man who disguised himself as Barbara Campa, an American and ordered a coloured TV to be delivered in Noida to Arif Azim. After sometime, it was found to be a case of fraud by a call center employee who had gained access to the woman’s credit card number. Social networking sites are a craze among the youth but they are not safe, as several cases of photo morphing have come to limelight. Cases of genuine as well as hoax terror mails have also created panic many times.

Given the dire consequences of the use of computer the question that pops up is that, are we safe? Can we choose to go back to the old days when we relied on paper work or when it was difficult to submit a form to far-flung areas at the last moment? Indeed, we cannot do so. With the advent of new problems, we have found new solutions. Safety is the keyword but who would ensure that? Although the Cyber laws have come up to track these offenders but their proper implementation can happen with coordinated efforts. Teachers and parents should make children aware of the menace. Infact use of internet should be in the presence of an adult person. People should be alert and should check the authenticity of websites they visit and avoid giving any confidential information online. One should not open any file from a suspicious source. Backing up of files is a safety to deal with virus. Most importantly installing a firewall, pop-up blockers, and a good software that can detect and remove any malware is necessary to remain safe in the cyber world.

Nidhi Bisht

[Image courtesy:]