Online-Harassment-and-Cyber-Crimes-Against-Women

In spite of the umpteen technological and cultural advances across the globe, guaranteeing women’s safety is still a far-fetched dream. Be it in the physical or the virtual world, women are one of most targeted sections of the society. Cyber crimes against women are on the rise and are increasingly jeopardizing the dignity and online safety of women. And, awareness is key to prevention. The following sections shall take you through the common forms of online harassment, and cyber crimes against women. Get to know about the cyber harassment laws applicable in such cases and tips to prevent cyber crimes against women.

Cyber Crimes Against Women are on the Rise

In India alone, the number of internet users is touching the 500 million mark. Although women account for only 30% of the users, they are the most vulnerable group in the cyber world. Women are still one of the most oppressed sections of the society. The emergence of various social networking platforms has enabled women to free themselves from the conservative chains of society and communicate freely. However, not without some damaging cons!

The choice of a multitude of social networking platforms is all the more responsible for endangering women’s safety online. According to a survey, nearly 76% of women under the age of 30 have been the victims of online harassment. It is shocking that revenge porn or sextortion targets every 1 in 10 women under the age of 30!

5 Common Cyber Crimes Against Women

Cyber crime is any illegitimate activity conducted using a computing device as the primary means. Following are some of the most common forms of cyber crimes against women.

1. Cyberstalking

Cyberstalking is one of the most common and outrageous forms of online harassment of women. Nearly 4 out of 5 cyberstalking victims are women!

In the physical world, ‘stalking’ is a behavior comprising repeated engagement in harassment meant to induce terror and distress in the victim. Similarly, cyberstalking entails several activities of online harassment meant to torment or terrorize the victim.

Examples include covertly following a person’s online activities, sending threats, and/or constantly subjecting the victim to unsolicited messages, emails etc. As per past incidents and surveys, cyber stalkers usually target women in the age group of 16 to 35. The motives behind cyberstalking range from romantic obsessions and ego, to sexual harassment and revenge.

2. Cyber Defamation

Cyber defamation involves sending, posting or sharing derogatory content about women on the internet. Perpetrators usually post defamatory matter about the victim by hacking his/her social media account or under the disguise of the victim’s fake profile. The fake profile contains all relevant information about the victim that makes it appear like a genuine one!

Once again, most cyber defamation victims are women and inflicting mental trauma and agony are the main motives.

Unfortunately, cyber harassment laws in India do not distinctly cover cyber defamation. The criminal justice system in India treats it under the same provisions as those of cyber pornography or publication of obscene material online.

3. Email Harassment

Since the days of yore, women have been bearing the brunt of harassment through anonymous, and sometimes threatening letters. Email harassment is the modern and technologically advanced version of the same form of nuisance. Just that in this case, it is harder to identify the perpetrators as they use fake email IDs for this.

The purpose of harassing women via emails ranges from bullying, threatening and blackmailing to cheating and financial frauds. Usually, miscreants send dozens of emails, sometimes offensive and aggressive, to threaten or blackmail the victim.

The Information Technology Act does not explicitly cover email harassment. However, Section 292A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) is applicable for those printing or publishing obscene or offensive matter, or any matter intended to blackmail. Furthermore, one can even invoke Section 509 of the IPC in cases involving any gesture or statement insulting the dignity of a woman.

4. Cyber Pornography

Cyber pornography is one of the most dangerous threats to women in the cyber world. Cyber pornography is the act of generating, sharing, downloading or importing adult content in the cyber space. This includes adult websites as well magazines produced/published/printed using computers.

Women are increasingly using social networking platforms to publish and share personal images. This has only fueled the incidents of cyber pornography involving women. It is a cakewalk now for crooks to download their images and/or videos and misuse them to produce adult content. Cyber pornography can leave indelible psychological and emotional scars on women and can tarnish their images forever.

5. Doxxing

A term not much heard of, doxxing is fast emerging as one of the most sinister cyber crimes against women. Doxxing is the act of sharing personal information or documents online without the owner’s consent. Almost every online service or platform prompts a user to enter his/her personal and/or banking details. The huge pool of personal information available online provides a lucrative opportunity to crooks for misusing them.

Often due to sheer ignorance, women end up becoming the victims of doxxing when miscreants share their personal information such as name, address, phone numbers, spouse/children’s names, and email IDs while they are completely oblivious to it! The information is further misused for prolonged harassment, prank calls, and even death threats!!

Cyber Harassment Laws to Combat Cyber Crimes

India is one of the few countries in the world to have cyber harassment laws for penalizing cyber crime perpetrators. Although not specific to women, it cites cyber offenses such as hacking, tampering of data and publication of obscene content as punishable offenses. The Information and Technology Act, 2000 (IT Act 2000), and Indian Penal Code (IPC) cover the following cyber crime offenses.

Section 67 (IT Act, 2000)

Most of the cyber crimes against women come under the purview of Section 67 of the IT Act, 2000. The provisions under this section cover the publication or transmission of vulgar material in an electronic form. The 2008 Amendment of the IT Act made inclusions for child pornography and custody of records by intermediaries.

Section 66A (IT Act, 2000)

It covers the act of sending offensive messages using a computing or communication device that can cause annoyance, insult etc. It also includes online communication meant to deceive or mislead the recipient about the source of the message (email spoofing). The punishment for such offenses is penalty or imprisonment up to three years.

Section 66B (IT Act, 2000)

Section 66B punishes perpetrators for fraudulently and consciously receiving or retaining a stolen communication device or computer resource. The punitive action includes fine up to ₹1 lakh, or imprisonment up to three years.

Section 66C (IT Act, 2000)

It covers identity theft attempts involving the misuse of another individual’s password, digital signature or any other unique identification feature.

Section 66D (IT Act, 2000)

Section 66D includes offenses of cheating using a computer resource or communication device by impersonating someone.

Section 66E (IT Act, 2000)

The provisions under Section 66E deal with punishment for violation of privacy. This section covers the publication or sharing of images pertaining to the private areas of an individual without consent.

Section 72 (IT Act, 2000)

This section books a person for breaching the confidentiality or privacy of another individual through unauthorized access to an electronic record, book, register, document etc.

Section 354D IPC

This section of the Indian Penal Code deals with stalking in all forms. It includes stalking a woman or her contacts physically or monitoring her online activities against her consent or knowledge.

Section 500 IPC

It covers printing or engraving any matter about someone knowing that it is derogatory and defamatory (cyber defamation). The offense is punishable as per Section 500 i.e. imprisonment up to two years and/or fine.

Stay Safe – Tips to Prevent Cyber Crimes Against Women

Cyber crimes against women often go unreported due to lack of awareness and education on the prevention and incident response. Now that you are cognizant of the different cyber crimes against women, it is time you fortify your online safety. Take your time to trust a stranger and keep your eyes open and mind alert during online communications and/or transactions. Following are some tips to prevent cyber crimes against women. Follow and share them to avoid being a victim of cyber crimes or online harassment.

1. NEVER Share Your Passwords

So you think it is okay to share your passwords with a trusted partner or a friend? No, it is not! Keep your passwords confidential and abstain from sharing them with anyone! You never know how and when one intentionally or unintentionally misuses it.

2. NEVER Leave Your Webcam Connected

We know you’ve heard of applications that can discreetly switch on your webcam and start recording. Yes, it is true and quite possible! Make sure you disable your camera permissions and cover/close the lens when not in use. For laptops, we recommend that you apply a small sticker to cover the webcam when you don’t need it.

3. Share Personal Data/Images DILIGENTLY

Don’t go overboard in trusting an unknown person on online platforms. Even if it’s someone you’ve known for long, make sure you don’t share anything more than necessary. Relationships can turn sour any moment. One can easily manipulate and misuse intimate photographs and online chats for revenge and/or blackmail.

4. NEVER Meet Online Connections Alone

The cyber world is a tricky one as it can easily masquerade the truth and reality. When you befriend someone on an online platform, tread cautiously. Keep your family and friends informed of who and where you are meeting. Irrespective of you cringing right now, trust us with this tip more than a random person you’ve met online!

5. Install Updates and Use Anti-Virus Software

Make sure you install the latest and genuine anti-virus software on your smartphone and computing devices. Installing a reliable security system and firewall creates the basic protection for your devices against malware and malicious software. Regardless of how busy you are, make sure you install the latest security patches and software updates on your devices.

6. Read Terms & Conditions

Make sure you read the terms and privacy policy of the online services you use. Yes, it sounds pointless and plus you don’t have the time, but here’s how it helps. Some websites have the legal rights to own, share, sell or resell your personal information to anyone they wish to. If defrauded on such platforms after agreeing to their policies, even the law cannot help you get justice!

7. Block Unwanted People

Declining random friend requests or overtures to converse with unknown people is absolutely FINE! Trust your instincts because it plays a crucial role in your safety, both in the physical and cyber world. If you someone makes you feel uncomfortable, then just ignore, unfriend or block them!

8. DO NOT believe in Freebies

Remember that no one is sitting out there doing charity! There is nothing called ‘freebies’ and we mean too-good-to-be-true sounding offers and deals. Such offers serve as baits to urge users to install malware, spyware, viruses and other malicious software on their devices.

ARDC – In the League of Preventing Cyber Crimes Against Women

The Center for Advanced Research in Digital Forensics and Cyber Security (ARDC) strives to play an active role in sensitizing the society about cyber crimes against women. ARDC engages in various activities to protect online harassment of women through social media monitoring and leveraging its research to empower women policing units and conduct awareness drives.

Contact us for Consultation and Investigation of Cyber Crimes Against Women.

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