Let's Build a Responsible Cyber Society



Cyber Terrorism in Action

The recent incidents in India following a series of SMS messages being circulated to threaten people of Assamese origin living in different parts of India back to Assam has thrown open discussions on whether it is an act of "Cyber Terrorism" or "Cyber War" or a combination of both.

It was clear that the objective of the exercise was to instill a feeling of fear and terrorize a section of people and force them to take action which adversely affected their sense of freedom and nationhood.

The means used was to send "False" SMSes as well as post doctored pictures with malicious intention of inciting violence in various social network sites and blogs.

The effect was creating a sense of insecurity amongst people.

By every normal yardstick the developments qualify to be classified as an act of "Terrorism" .

The Bangalore police in the meantime have arrested three persons who have been responsible for sending the messages. The big question however is whether the arrested persons have been charged for "Terrorism" or for some other minor offence.

We also have a "Digvijay Singh" of Karnataka in the name of "G. Parameshwar" who has tried to mislead the police by stating that RSS is responsible for the sending of the messages. Promptly the BJP has alleged that Congress may be involved. Bangalore Police must therefore be trying to balance "National Interests" with "Political Interests".

In the aftermath of the recent spate of violence promoting SMSes, Government has temporarily banned bulk SMSes from prepaid mobile phones. In Bangalore, the home minister Mr R. Ashoka has met Muslim leaders and tried to seek their help in preventing further deterioration of the situation. May be the situation will limp back to normalcy in the next week or two.

But it is necessary for us to think if this is an isolated event and cannot repeat at some point in future. If so we need to debate if the present measures are sufficient to prevent recurrence of such events.

In this context it would be essential for Karnataka Police and the Government to build enough deterrence so that people should think several times before indulging in such anti national activities.

It also  becomes essential to observe how the Bangalore Police will handle the incident and the three persons who have been arrested. If the arrests have been made under "Disruption of Public Order", they are likely to be released without the charges being pressed. At best they may be booked under a low order crime and let out on bail. This will effectively please all political interests and even the faction ridden BJP Government in the state may be happy to close the incident at the earliest.

This may also be convenient to the Police since the arrested persons are reported to be those who were earlier providing assistance to police in resolving Cyber Crimes and are therefore otherwise friendly with them.

However, if the offence is booked as a "Terrorist" act and the arrested persons are tried for an offence which has "Life Imprisonment" as a punishment, there would be a better deterrence against repeat of such events.

Police should therefore examine provisions of law especially Section 66F of ITA 2008 whether this incident can be booked as  "Cyber Terrorism". This will also be a test of law if Section 66F was drafted properly in the first place.

In interpreting Section 66F, the key may be to interpret the words "without authorization". In the instant case, the perpetrators of the crime have accessed the SMS system and some websites and used the services to commit the crime. The service providers which may be the MSPs or the hosting companies or the domain name registrars had not provided the service to be used for the purpose of such terrorist activities. Hence it would amount to "Unauthorised access" of the service.

Hence there is a good reason for the incident to be booked under Section 66F of ITA 2008.

While the action against the local persons can be initiated as "Cyber Terrorism", the evidences if any abut the involvement of Pakistan sources indicate that there could also be an angle of "Cyber War". This needs to be handled by the Government of India appropriately as per known international conventions.


August 20, 2012

Related articles:

Cyber Terrorism...A New Challenge to Law Enforcement Agencies

Does India need a Prevention of Terrorism Act?

Combating Terrorism: An Evaluation Of Anti Terrorism Laws In India

IT Act Amendments and Cyber Terrorism

New Cyber Crime Definitions Required

Why US PATRIOT Act is required in India

Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act 2008


[Comments welcome]