Cyber Stalking - A "Virtual" Crime With Real Consequences
"Cyber Stalking against women,men and children is on the rise worldwide and we need to act now to prevent it from further affecting more lives."
Ritu Kohli,32, married,worked with an embassy in New Delhi.Her perfectly normal life turned upside down,when she started receiving a series of emails from an unknown source.
The person, through the mails, threatened her to either pose nude for him or cough up Rs.1 Lakh.
Initially she ignored the mails.
But when she started receiving similar threatening letters through post,she got alarmed.
In the mails and letters, the accused threatened Kohli, that he would put up her morphed pictures on the adult sites along with her telephone and home address.He also alleged to put up these same pictures in her neighborhood, where she lived.Adding to her worries,the accused did send her the photographs, through mail, which Kohli later confirmed to be the same photographs which she had in her mail folder.Not only that,she also received numerous unsolicited phone calls from strangers at odd hours,asking her for sexual favors.
Distraught,Kohli lodged a police complaint.
Fortunately for her the Delhi police immediately sprung into action.They traced down the IP address ( Internet Protocol address) of the hacker to a cyber cafe.
The police felt that the accused knew the victim well, as he seemed to know a lot about her.
They later confirmed that the accused had managed to hack Kohli's email address and password, which enabled him to access her pictures.The accused had also chatted on behalf of her on a chatting portal where he had distributed her phone number to the various chatters.
The cyber stalker- Manish Kathuria,later got arrested by the Delhi police and was booked under sec 509 of the IPC ( Indian Penal Code)for outraging the modesty of a woman and also under the IT Act ( Information Technology Act) of 2000.
The case highlighted here is of year 2001 and is of particular interest as Ritu Kohli's case marked the first case of cyber stalking to be reported in India.
Before this,people were unaware of the term "cyber stalking" and ignorant of the fact that internet could also be used in a detrimental and devilish way.
Cyber stalking is defined as the use of internet or other electronic media to stalk or harass an individual or group.Cyber stalking is a relatively new form of computer related crime where people, particularly women and children, are stalked online ( also sometimes offline) and are monitored, threatened or solicited for sex, money,using the information posted online.
Personal space and privacy of the victim is compromised,where every move is "watched" by the perpetrators and/or pedophiles.
The person involved in such a crime, is mostly delusional, racist or even an egoist who believes that the anonymity offered by the cyber space coupled with the fact that they cannot be 'touched physically',gives them a sense of confidence in carrying out such crimes.
Though the crime is committed online, its repercussions are faced offline, in the real world.
Rape,suicide,murder along with psychological and emotional distress,are often the end results faced by the victims.
According to a report by the Security and Defense Agenda, a leading defense and security think-tank in Brussels, and McAfee - India is ranked fifth worldwide in countries affected by cyber crime.
With a total internet subscriber base of more than 121 million,India is poised to become the third largest online population country by 2013.Hence the implications and risks attached with cyber crime will be on the rise, with more public being "available online".
The ease with which a cyber stalker disguises himself by adopting different fake identities and switching servers,makes the crime even more dangerous and the victim that much more susceptible and liable to be accused.
Hence the need of the hour is to be careful and responsible while operating online.
Below mentioned are some of the advice given by experts regarding safety and security to be followed regarding cyber crimes:
>No to sharing your passwords.
>No to filling out forms or profiles for websites that claim to offer " free" goods or services.
>No to gender specific screen names or IDs.
>No to giving out personal/intimate details on public websites.
>Yes to a good anti-virus program.
>Yes to parental controls when children use the net.
>Yes to saving all the communication sent by the stalker on your computer.
>Yes to know about the laws/guidelines pertaining to cyber crimes in your country.
>And most importantly,yes to reporting it to the police.
While following the aforementioned advice will always help,what can also be done is to be aware of the laws governing cyber crimes in our country.
Cyber law/ guidelines-India:
There are no laws that directly affect cyber stalking in India. India's Information Technology Act of 2000 ( IT Act, 2000) was a set of laws implemented to regulate the cyberspace.
The Act was modified in 2008 ( IT Act 2008) to include interpersonal cyber crimes, but still failed to directly address the issue of cyber stalking.
Cyber stalking (though inadequately)is addressed mainly through IPC ( Indian Penal Code,) which regulates crimes of the real space.
Fortunately,there is a law for mandatory registration for every first visit by a customer to a cyber cafe all over India.Ideally,every person should provide contact details and a photo identity when visiting a cafe for the first time.
India is still in the nascent stages of implementing cyber laws.Until and unless we raise our voice against this inadequacy,a stricter and separate law would not be brought into force.
Internet and its realm of reach is infinite.Through it we can be closer to a person sitting miles away. But what we should also remember that by bringing information closer to us, it also exposes us to the infinite possibilities of cyber abuse.
Therefore next time let us pledge to be more careful before sharing personal details online.
Let us pledge to raise our voice against any cyber criminal activity or person, if we or our dear ones are affected.