You’ve installed a new music mixing software “Musicmix” that enables you to mix your favourite songs and put a spin on them. You downloaded it from online onto your laptop and it’s so convenient and extremely simple to use. Two days later you notice a series of events that keep recurring, messages like :

  • Error “Your browser could not display the page”
  • Your web browser is unresponsive and always hangs
  • You keep getting redirected to web pages other than ones that you intend to go to
  • There are plenty of web-browser pop-up message

It’s possible that the new software you downloaded is a “virus”. A virus is also a computer software program a “computer contaminant”, but one that was created with malicious intent, which makes it “malware”.

Viruses infect the computer, when they are installed and multiply several times inside the computer that it has occupied. Viruses can spread from an infected computer to other computers through emails, or use of external storage devices like hard drives or pen drives that can carry the infection from the affected computer to the one that the storage device is connected to. Connecting a mobile phone through data cable to an infected computer may also help spread the virus. The reason for tagging such malware as virus is to demonstrate the ease with which it can multiply and spread exponentially.

Computer contaminants are a set of computer instructions that are designed to modify, record, transmit data or program residing in a computer or it takes over the normal operation of a computer. The end result is that it damages, destroys, degrades or affects the functioning of the computer resource adversely.

Viruses are spread through various means on computers and even mobiles. Even a SMS could contain a link with malware, which will help the criminal take control of your computer or mobile device. Viruses are primarily used to take control of computers or devices to either disable them or to use such control for committing further offences such as hacking. Remote access to compters or devices including IoT devices can result in criminals gaining access into your private homes and rooms without your knowledge. Imagine a hacker taking control of your computer camera and spying on your child at home.  These are not individual or rare cases but constant threats to personal privacy.

Apart from the threats that virus attacks can cause to individuals, they also cause harm to businesses. Once a hacker takes control of a business or corporate entity’s computer infrastructure, he gains access to all of its proprietary information including business plans, designs and drawings, trade secrets, to name a few.

Introductions of viruses into business IT networks through innocuous emails to employees is one easy way to penetrate the most sophisticated systems. As they say, building robust secure systems costs a lot of money but it takes a very simple or primitive cyberattack to make it vulnerable and humans remain the most weakest link in compromising security of the most robust systems.

Law provides for civil and criminal remedies to combat virus attacks under Section 43(c) and Section 66 read with S.43(c) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (as amended) (“IT Act”), respectively. Apart from this, if such attack is intended to initiate a cyber terror attack, S.66F IT Act may be invoked. In addition, depending on the intent and purpose of the attack, general provisions of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (“IPC”) may also be invoked. For instance, if a virus attack is a precursor to the commission of the offence of a bot – enabled hate speech or fake news spread, Section 153A IPC may be invoked. Every criminal act therefore will have consequences and it is imperative that immediate prosecutions are invoked.

Civil proceedings for cyber violations is still an evolving field. Ensuring specific dedicated tribunals and appellate authorities, as was originally intended under the IT Act is imperative instead of ad – hoc solutions. Governments would have to give specific focus for the same especially in these digitally enabled times.

Meanwhile, existing provisions and enforcement mechanisms ought to be taken recourse too without delay.  Victims should initiate civil and criminal proceedings and demonstrate that criminals can be brought to book. Else such serious offences not only go unpunished but will be setting worrisome precedents for others to launch such or more aggravated attacks.

File your complaint online on cybercrime.gov.in. Seek justice and ensure that criminals do not harm you or others. Be A Cyber Saathi!

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