As technology continues to advance, we continue to see new methods for criminals to take advantage of those who are weak and/or unknowing of how things work online. Not having the proper knowledge about Cyber Law, Internet safety and methods to protect personal information, can often lead to someone easily falling victim to online fraud, scams and identity theft.
Cyber laws have been established to help protect victims. They also help make it possible to prosecute these criminals to the fullest extent of the law. Without cyber laws, criminals will continue to target and attack their victims.
What is cyber law?
Lawmakers work hard to keep up with the continual change and growth in technology. Sometimes, when certain cyber-crimes are committed, there are no laws specifically targeting said crimes. In other cases, cybercrimes are prosecuted under other laws protecting citizens from falling victims to fraud, scams, identity theft and other technology-based crimes.
According to the Digital Business Law Group, the cyber law definition is any law focusing on “the Internet, computer law, e-commerce law and any number of variations.” All-in-all, cyber law is an assortment of legal doctrines that govern the use of these variations of technologies. Most of these doctrines predate the Internet but have been used in conjunction with laws that have been passed as a result of the continual change in technological advances.
Cybercrimes are committed via the use of the Internet and other forms of technology. According to the FBI, common cybercrimes include:
- Computer crimes
- Identity theft
- Online scams
- Phishing scams
- Selling fakes online
- Unauthorized accessing of stored communications
- Sports betting
- Non-delivery of merchandise purchased over the Internet
- Electronic harassment
- Child pornography
- Drug trafficking
- Telemarking fraud
- Health care fraud
- Pyramid schemes
The above-listed crimes are just a sampling of the cybercrimes that have been documented. Many cyber criminals focus on conning the weak. This includes those who are not strong Internet users, including children and the elderly. Many of the Nigerian scams focus on illegally retrieving passwords and account numbers from the elderly and leaving their bank accounts empty.
There are many different variations of cyber law, most covering fraud, security, identity protection and property protection. Areas of cybercrime laws include:
- Contracts: These generally occur when a user downloads or installs software onto their computer or signs up for a membership on various websites.
- Copyright: These laws limit what can be reproduced, distributed and copied. All rights belong to the creator unless permission has been granted to another party to reproduce, copy or distribute said pieces of work. This includes artwork, writing, sound recordings, videos and photographs.
- Defamation: Under common law, proof must be presented to win a case of defamations including, the defamatory statement, true identification of the defendant, publication of the statement and proof of damages.
- Domain disputes: These occur when there is a disagreement as to who has the right to own certain domains and can sometimes fall under trademark infractions.
- Employment: There are many people who are employed through online services and are protected under most general employment laws. These laws also protect employers through non-compete contracts and other contracts signed by employees to protect the company.
- Patents: Set of exclusive rights granted for a specific period of time to the inventor of a product or concept. This type of law is considered a speciality and there are attorneys that specifically work helping those seeking patents or needing assistance when their patent rights have been violated.
- Privacy: This includes business systems getting hacked, hospital records being illegally accessed and personal computers being hacked for personal information, such as bank accounts, passwords, user IDs and other personal details about the victim.
- Trademarks: Trademarks are things that serve to identify a specific product, company or service. These items include colours, brands, images, phrases, words, logos, company names or any combination. These items are registered as trademarks and are protected from being used to represent another company, product or service without the permission of the trademark owner.
Cyberbullying is the act of using electronic means of communication to bully someone. Most common methods of cyberbullying include sending intimidating messages as a way of making the victim do something out of fear. According to Stop Bullying, these crimes occur when the perpetrator uses various electronic technology, including smartphones, computers and tablets.
Different examples of cyberbullying include intimidating text messages or emails and sending rumours or false statements about the victim via email or by posting these statements on social media sites or blogs. Another example includes posting or sending embarrassing pictures, videos or fake profiles meant to cause harm to the victim’s social reputation.
Those who have fallen victim to a cyberbully are more likely to:
- Abuse of alcohol and drugs
- Skip school and/or work
- Fall victim to in-person bullying from the same or different bully
- See a drop in school and/or work performance
- Have low self-esteem
- Suffer from stress-related health problems
- Become socially withdrawn
- Have emotional outbursts
- Have a sudden fear of using technology
- Turns the phone off so there is no way for the bully to make contact
Laws on cyberbullying
Just like with any other area of cyber law, lawmakers are working hard to keep up with technology by creating and passing laws to protect those who have fallen victim to a cyberbully. Currently, there is no federal law that specifically applies to bullying – on or off the computer. Because of this, cyberbullying is handled at the state level, with each state addressing this serious crime in a different manner.
Some states have laws against cyberbullying and others have not passed any specific laws for this crime. In fact, in some cases, cyberbullying is prosecuted through other laws. So there is still justice being served, just not through any one specific cyber law. In fact, most cyberbullying cases are prosecuted under state and federal harassment laws.
Cyber security laws
Cyber security regulations safeguard all variations of information technology and computer systems. Task forces have been created to monitor and investigate cyber-attacks such as viruses, worms, phishing, unauthorized access, Trojan horses and control system attacks.
Because threats of these attacks exist, it is important for those who use the Internet to take all necessary precautions to protect their data and the security of their computer. Different measures put in place to protect users online include firewalls, encryption, log-in passwords, anti-virus software and intrusion detection systems.
Federal laws that focus on cybersecurity regulations include:
- 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act
- 1999 Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act
- 2002 Homeland Security Act
In addition to these federal laws, many states have passed laws at the state level to help enhance cybersecurity measures and Internet users. For example, in 2003, California passed the Notice of Security Breach Act, which requires companies to disclose details of any breaches in the security of systems containing personal information about citizens of California.
Cybercrime divisions in law enforcement agencies across the nation have been created to help recognize when a crime has been committed, help the victims, investigate the crimes and help catch these criminals. Cybercrime divisions can be found in local police departments, sheriff’s offices, state criminal agencies and even federal agencies, such as the FBI.
Those who have fallen victim to a cybercrime, or believe they have, can contact any of the above agencies for help. If one law enforcement department is not able to help a victim, they will be able to offer advice and help connect them to the proper department.
As you can see, there are many areas where more laws are needed to help protect Internet and technology users. Though there may not be federal laws passed regarding some areas of cybercrime, state legislatures have recognized the need for these laws and have passed many laws and policies at the state level.