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OP-ED: Cyberspace in a post-Covid world

  • Published at 01:24 pm September 9th, 2020
Cyber Security
Representational image BIGSTOCK

Protecting ourselves against cyber crimes

Criminals in cyberspace are much more efficient than criminals in reality. They train themselves to play with people’s minds, since they have no physical control over their victims. 

Hence, it is crucial that the masses realize the steps that need to be taken before falling victim to cyber crime. There are laws, however, that aim to mitigate the losses of those who fail to protect themselves. 

At present, Covid-19 has made many the primary targets of these crimes, because of their vulnerabilities and fear. The most common cyber crime that has increased during the pandemic, most likely, is phishing. 

It typically involves the sending of sham emails, saying that you have won a lottery, somebody wants to put their money in your bank account for which they will pay you a hefty amount, or more recently, somebody wishes to tell you 10 ways of saving your loved ones from the coronavirus. 

However, a small payment must be made to the sender of the email, perhaps through a redirected website that will steal all your personal information you type down (username, password, and/or credit card number) and/or infect your computer with malware. 

Therefore, it is paramount that people never respond to these emails and definitely not visit those redirected websites to make payments. 

As for laws, although phishing has not been specified as cyber crime in any statute, Section 24 of the Digital Security Act 2018 (DSA 18) in Bangladesh makes identity fraud or being in disguise an offense, indicating that those who steal people’s information for later abuse will be punished for identity fraud, or for masquerading as victims. 

Another Covid-driven cyber crime is the Denial of Service (DoS) attack which essentially overwhelms a computer server with robots and aims to use up the number of customers that the targeted server can handle. 

This crime does not require much expertise. Hence, time and time again, DoS attacks have been carried out against businesses, mostly by their competitors. 

Since Covid-19 has pushed all businesses to shift their brick and mortar infrastructure into the cyberspace, e-business competitors are only increasing, leading to a surge in these crimes.  

The problem with the DoS attack is that legitimate users are blocked from accessing the server, and if the mishap continues, which it surely will, consumers will switch to other brands whose servers can be accessed, thus pulverizing business profits of the targeted company. 

But there are laws in Bangladesh under DSA 18 that allow people to mitigate their losses if DoS attacks can be proven to fall within the ambit of “hacking.” 

Essentially, under Section 34(1) of the act, if someone has committed hacking, it will be an offense punishable with a term of imprisonment as high as 14 years or with a maximum fine of Tk1 crore or both. Nonetheless, it is better if businesses take steps to prevent these attacks rather than resorting to litigation after having experienced significant losses. 

Another cyber crime greatly driven by the pandemic is cyber-slacking. Although its victims are not targeted, cyber-slacking can be dangerous for the entire economy. 

Most people would not consider it a crime, since cyber-slacking simply means usage of an organization’s computer resource by its employee for non-work purposes. 

However, its consequences can be colossal, as paid hours of the employee are being wasted on unproductive actions, harming the entire business.

No laws around the globe have made this a punishable offense, but for the sake of a healthier economy, it is important that money is not wasted, especially during such a crisis. 

Furthermore, while cyber-slacking, employees may go to harmful websites that might infect the whole company’s computer network. 

Cyber crimes against women should also be given particular attention. Steps like educating people about the risks of the internet should be taken immediately, so that everyone knows what can go wrong and when can it can go wrong. 

There are a range of laws that protect women from cyber crimes (although the crime is supposed to be gender-neutral) such as the Pornography Act 2012, Information and Communication Technology Act 2006, and the DSA. However, crimes such as cyber-stalking are still waiting to be addressed. 

Therefore, I urge readers to take preventive steps, rather than thinking of litigating or suing the offenders after becoming a victim -- prevention is better than cure. 

Anusha Islam Raha is a graduate of LLB (Hons) from BPP University, UK. She is currently studying LLM and pursuing her career as a teacher.

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