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There are seven billion people in this world. Approximately 50% are internet user, i.e. 3.5 billion people on the internet. And the number just keeps increasing exponentially. 

*The world is on the internet. Where are you?*

The 21st century can very easily be called the ‘internet century.’ Our worlds revolve around our smart devices. Which in turn revolves around the internet. We cannot even IMAGINE the world where Facebook or Snapchat or PayTM doesn’t exist. Gone are the days of standing in lines to pay your bills. Today’s generation doesn’t know what a line is. Or for that matter, what patience is. World connectivity has brought about such a revolution that the post-net and pre-net worlds are entirely unrecognizable. Our lifestyle and culture have changed. Our priorities have changed. And so have our problems.

The Internet has immense power. Power to make or break someone. Power to impact world policies and decisions. To change the world. But as Uncle Benjamin Parker wisely said, ‘With great power comes great responsibility.’ The internet too, with its power, brings responsibilities.

With the increasing popularity of online activities, the rate of online crimes has also increased exponentially. While the extent and impact of these crimes vary greatly from the Occident to the Orient, it has become a global menace. From crimes like cyber bullying to cyber terrorism, these new age phenomena have evolved and are evolving constantly.

Cyber-crimes are still not explicitly defined. While most countries have laws in place to deal with such issues, the underlying crime itself varies from case to case. Moreover, cyber activities are not governed by geographical borders. Which makes dealing with such crimes all the more confusing and complex. As a result of which, a lot of cyber-crimes either go unreported or simply unconvicted.

Let’s examine the state of the cyber law in various countries.

The UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

The USA is the world leader in cyber crimes. It has been the top affected country of the world in terms of internet related crimes with 23% of world cyber crime rate. However, it is also the country with strongest cyber laws in place. About 60% of the cyber cases registered, end in conviction and prison sentences. The first effective law against such crimes was first established in 1984 termed as The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). However, the act did not include a provision for intentional harming of devices by using malicious code. Or in lay man language, for viruses.

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To improve the act, The National Information Infrastructure Protection Act (NIIA) was introduced. The act included previous espionage laws and made it illegal to view computer information without authorisation. Over and beyond these laws, USA has established strict definitions and punishments for cyber crimes. From penalties like expulsion to criminal misdemeanour to felony in cyber bullying. To penalty of 15 years imprisonment and fines for identity theft. To penalty of six to twenty years prison time for hacking and damage to computer properties. USA has quite a stronghold on cyber laws.

The first effective law against such crimes was first established in 1984 termed as The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). However, the act did not include a provision for intentional harming of devices by using malicious code. Or in lay man language, for viruses. To improve the act, The National Information Infrastructure Protection Act (NIIA) came into being.

The act included previous espionage laws and made it illegal to view computer information without authorization. Above and beyond these laws, USA has established strict definitions and punishments for cyber crimes. From penalties like expulsion to criminal misdemeanor to felony in cyber bullying. To penalty of 15 years imprisonment and fines for identity theft. To penalty of six to twenty years prison time for hacking and damage to computer properties. USA has quite a stronghold on cyber laws.

Above and beyond these laws, USA has established strict definitions and punishments for cyber crimes. From penalties like expulsion to criminal misdemeanor to felony in cyber bullying. To penalty of 15 years imprisonment and fines for identity theft. To penalty of six to twenty years prison time for hacking and damage to computer properties. USA has quite a stronghold on cyber laws.

The UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

Among the middle-eastern countries, UAE has the most comprehensive and strong law against cyber criminals. UAE faces a meager 5% of the world’s cyber threats. However, being the financial capital of the Gulf Regions, it has strong laws to protect its businesses from attacks.

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The nation has very clearly defined each offense as well as the penalty associated with each. From a penalty of maximum two-year imprisonment or 250-000-500,000 AED (Arab Emirates Dirham) for the basic crime of cyber stalking and harassment. To imprisonment and fine of up to 2,000,000 AED for forgery. To life imprisonment for cyber terrorism. UAE has clear-cut, stringent laws in place for any cyber threat.

KINGDOM OF SAUDI ARABIA

The cyber crime rate in Saudi Arabia is relatively low as compared to the world. However, these crimes have slowly been on the rise through the years. 76% of this includes pornography and cost the nation approximately 6.5 million dollars in 2016. While KSA has some laws in place, most of other cyber instances such as cyber bullying, piracy, falsification of signatures etc. are not defined.

The only laws in place are against hacking, illegal access to data, pornography, denial of service and cyber terrorism. The penalties vary from one-year imprisonment and a fine of 100,000 Riyals to imprisonment of maximum 10 years and fine of 5,000,000 Riyals for Cyber terrorism.

CHINA

China has always set the precedent in cyber laws. While its laws may appear dictatorial to external forces, they are essential to the Chinese government. The recognition and penalizing of cyber crimes began in 1997 with the ‘Computer Information Network and Internet Security, Protection and Management Regulations’ codified by the State Council. As per the criminal law, acts like hacking,  sabotaging data or creating and propagating digital viruses lead to a minimum of three years imprisonment. The sentence is increased phenomenally in graver cases, involving sensitive data. 

After 2010, the law also states, ‘within Chinese territory, the internet is under the sovereignty of China.’ Which translates to, the government has utter and complete control over the internet within their borders. As such, many of the world’s most popular websites are banned in China. For instance, Google. While this may appear preposterous to us, it has proved beneficial for indigenous e-commerce and digital companies of China. 

The latest in China’s law is the Cybersecurity Law that came into effect this June. The law requires all foreign companies to store their essential data of use within the country itself. As well as allow the government to conduct check’s on the company network’s and data.

INDIA

India faces a meager 3% of the world’s total cyber-attacks. However, it also has only one strong law in place to tackle them. The Information Technology Act of 200 and its consequent amendments is the only legislative law governing cyber threats in India. While the law encompasses various crimes such as violation of privacy, identity theft, sending obscene material, child pornography and cyber terrorism. It lacks on various fronts such as cyber bullying, forgery, piracy etc. From penalties of up to two lakh rupees and imprisonment for privacy violation. To a fine of up to ten lakh rupees and up to five years in prison for creating and sharing child pornography. To lifelong imprisonment for cyber terrorism. The laws that India has in place are quite strict but there are still a lot of loopholes to cover.

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Cybercrime is an endless well of new ways to commit crimes. These may be as simple as extortion to complex crimes and conspiracies affecting world politics. The latest examples being the WannaCry ransomware attack in terms of extortion. And the alleged notorious involvement of Russia in the US presidential elections in terms of politics. While this is a new territory for both the offenders and victims, the world cyber laws still have a long way to go. Both in terms of prevention and conviction of attacks.


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