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Sunny Tomar asked: What is the difference between cyber-crime and cyber-terrorism? What is India’s position on both the issues?

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  • Cherian Samuel replies: From the technical angle, the difference between cyber-crime and cyber-terrorism is only nominal in that the means are the same, but the goals may be different. The same vulnerabilities in networks and systems can be used to attain a variety of goals, from crime to terrorism. As a hypothetical example, the systems of a high-value target such as a nuclear plant may be taken over by criminals and held to ransom or by terrorists for destructive purposes.

    Currently, the focus is more on the use of cyberspace by terrorist organisations for allied purposes, such as recruitment and collection of donations. Social media is also being used to spread misinformation. However, as more and more high value targets make their appearance in cyberspace, attempts to carry out cyber-attacks to wreak economic havoc, instigate violence and destroy critical networks will increase proportionately.

    In India, there has been an early focus on the issue of cyber-terrorism. As early as 2001, for instance, an India-US Cyberterrorism Initiative was established under the lager Counter-terrorism Dialogue. The Mumbai attacks of 2008 were largely cyber-enabled, both in planning and prosecution. The IT Amendment Act of 2008 had additional sections on both cyber-terrorism and cyber-crime, with a number of amendments being made to existing sections and new sections added to take these threats into account.

    While the legal frameworks are in place to address both the issues of cyber-crime and cyber-terrorism, capacity building in terms of training to law enforcement personnel, improving forensic capabilities, devising mechanisms for closer collaboration with foreign law enforcement agencies and governments are all required to give teeth to the laws. Till such a time, cyber-criminals will continue to flourish and cyber-terrorists will have a free run.

    Posted on August 12, 2014