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“All Citizens are Equal before Law and are Entitled to Equal Protection of Law”-Article 27 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

Issue No: 78
July 26 , 2008

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Cyber Law: Netting the web with law

Mufassil M M Islam


When dreams are organised and channelled through an extension of limitations, imaginations take form and when imaginations work in conjunctions with capabilities, inventions take place in our lives.

Our poets imagined a window to the soul and our philosophers imagined an ear to hear everything. Our inventors imagined a magic broom to fly anywhere and to see any land with the clapping of hands in the land of Satyajit Roy's Hirok Raja's Deshey. Now, we have all that in the purple world of the 'Internet'.

Like may blessings of the modern times, we have this unfathomable pipeline of information and communication which attracts child and crabbed alike with its magical responses to many wishes which we can think of with a click on the keypad. This powerful genie enriches our bank accounts, keep us informed and keep us in touch with the people in lands where we may never travel but we often fail to control this floodgate of appetite for it with the required wisdom.

Our morals, principles, sensibility and thirst often blur our souls and we slip into the web of law-breakers. People get dragged into immoral activities, criminal prosecutions and civil litigations. There remains an international brotherhood of underworld lawbreakers who are engaged in activities far beyond any imaginable precedents in legal history. Patent violations, paedophilia, international organised crimes, cyber virus injection, packed suicides and unwarranted pop-up advertisements and junk-emails are a few of very common abuses of this gift of modern technology. There are salient features of misleading the common people who are not cautious enough with wrong information of the webs as well whist using this media as a public alternative for television, newspaper or book.

The following will clarify as to how far the law is being broken even in developed countries like that of USA and Canada (www.chamber.ca):
* U.S. organizations lose over $67 billion a year (2005 computer FBI Crime Survey).
* 9 out of 10 organizations experienced a computer security incident. 20% of the respondents suffered 20 or more attacks over a one-year period. 44% reported intrusions within their own organizations.
* Types of attacks: Viruses are 83.7% and Spyware 79.5% had experienced Spyware.
* 20% experienced network or data sabotage. Source of attacks, from 36 different countries: 26% from the US and 23.9% from China.
* Only 9% of incidents were reported to law enforcement establishments. Identity theft is growing; phishing attacks now reach roughly one in four Americans each month (FBI). Privacy fears threaten Canadian electronic commerce: 40% of Canadians avoid online shopping over security concerns, compared to 24% of Americans.
* 91% of internet users in the US have altered online behaviour inhibiting e-commerce growth from 1 3%. 74% Canadian consumers are changing online financial behaviour fearing email fraud.
* 80% of consumers in Canada, US, UK and Germany are fearful that identity theft will compromise their bank accounts.

Various countries have promulgated several regulations thwarting cyber crimes by maintaining vigilante organisations against dissemination of potential criminal abuse of the net-world. But there are obstacles as well in the forms of public privacy and Data Protection Acts. But the need to have concerted global effort to stop foes from corrupting our senses remains. Criminals and law-breakers use various apparent innocent means to creep into our unchecked and unguarded lacuna of acceptable e-mails, websites and other features. People often break laws innocently and get trapped into the locked room of crimes where there is no door to come out. But ignorance of law is never an excuse to break law and Governments often fail to make us aware of the responsible way to use the net. The internet service providers are not in many cases made obliged to keep their customers aware of the abuses of the net as well. Disclaimer declarations by many websites and lock-systems for adult users to prevent children from using the adult cites are being publicised by the service providers in the west.

Uncontrolled use of the net may give ways for addictions in the forms of chat-room addictions, music addictions, even may teach ways to learn means to break the law at home as in the case of 'learning how to have abortion at home' in Ireland where 'Abortion' is illegal. The recent capture of the paedophilia ring in USA, UK and Australia proved the far-reaching hand of the abusive use of this technology. But we do not expect a Talibani system where Internet would be banned in totality. It is like any technological means where the use will benefit and abuse will wrack. With a knife we chop our vegetables and at the same time criminals often use it as a weapon.

John Thompson, Chief of the Norton Anti-Virus company Symantec (www.Norton-online.com) puts the problem in clear perspective thus;
* There's a requirement for the stricter punishment of cyber criminals
* The degree to which cyber crime is going unpunished around the world is unconscionable
* International cooperation in combating cyber crime is miniscule, almost non-existent
* Clearly, Thompson recognizes that the crisis is now and that urgent and effective action is required. Anything less is not an option.

Our Government needs to:
1. Update the criminal code, reflective of the modern techniques and technologies employed in cyber crime, with deterrents which are substantial and effective.
2. Proceed with the establishment of a Cyber Security Task Force.
3. Vigorously pursue every opportunity for international cooperation in combating cyber crime (such as the London Action Plan, Council of Europe Convention on Cyber Crime, Security and Prosperity partnership of North America, et al).
4. Move to enact legislation to enable law enforcement to investigate crime in the face of rapidly evolving communications technology and prevent criminals from taking advantage of new technologies to hide their illegal activities from the law.
5. Work in cooperation with leading business organizations.
6. Create a series of forums across the country, to both gather objective data as well as raise awareness to the full extent of the problem.
7. Designate an existing government agency to manage the Cybercrime Central file.

The following agencies can form as models for various prospective organisations in Bangladesh:
1. Internet Crime Complaint Centre (www.ic3.gov/ alliances.aspx);
2. National Internet Fraud Watch Information Center (www.fraud.org);
3. National Crime Prevention Council (ojjdp.ncjrs.org).
We also need to bring this new area of legal practise within our legal academic and professional trainings. As we have a serous lack of expertise in this field of Cyber Law, we primarily need to bring in visiting professors, legal practitioners and trainers to bring up a strong professional group to help our legislators, judiciary and legal practitioners to guide and regulate the society in using this innovation of modern life within the boundaries of law.

Some of the laudable foreign Cyber Laws are as follows:
* The Information Technology Act 2000 (India);
* Cyber Security Enhancement Act (thomas.loc.gov/);
* Several Cyber Laws in UK. (www.cyberlaws.co.uk)

There have been several international conferences in this field and we can take note of the deliberations there as our guideline. The following two conferences are worth mentioning:
* The Council of Europe's Cyber Crime Convention 2001;
* UNESCO Freedom of Expression in Cyberspace Conference, 2005.

Our Government need to be aware that if they do not engage in promulgating the required laws in Cyber use, yet they leave a legacy where the future Government will feel the emphasis on working in this area of modern legal practise.

The writer is a Human Rights Advocate, and CEO, Law Offices of Islam and Associates.


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