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A seminar on 'Building professional image through website - Emerging trends and unknown techniques' was held by Prime Point Foundation on 27th July 2002 at Hotel Palmgrove, Madras, India.

Cyber accidents and how to deal with them - Naa Vijayashankar

The importance of Internet and its use as an Information source for individuals, E-Business media for Corporates and E-Governance media for Government bodies is too well established to need repetition. Suffice to say that the Netizen population in India is around 60 lakhs at present and growing at nearly 50 % p.a. The E-Business volume is difficult to quantify, but is estimated to be around Rs 6000 crores per annum now and expected to grow to around 15,000 crores in the next 3 years. With the passage of the Information Technology Act-2000 with effect from October 17, 2000, the legal hurdles in transforming the paper based economy to a digital economy have been cleared both for the private sector and the Government sector.Mr Naa Vijayashankar, Cyber law consultant

As the Cyber space gets more and more occupied, inevitably, the travellers of the Cyber space meet with “Cyber Accidents”.  Some try to quote this possibility as an excuse to remain away from the wonderful revolution of our times called the Internet.

But the wise men try to tread cautiously, be watchful, learn from other’s mistakes and learn to manage the “Risks of Being in Cyber Space”.

Some of the intelligent but perverted individuals revel in taking advantage of their superior technology knowledge and become “Cyber Criminals”.

The wiser of the skilled persons turn the “Risks in Cyber Space” and the raise of “Cyber Crimes”  into an opportunity for “Business”. The Victims of Cyber Accidents:

The victim of a Cyber accident may be a common individual Netizen or a Company or a Government Department.

The Accidents may be incidents that bring harm to the individual either as he is known in the real world or as he is identified in the Cyber space. Accidents may also affect the properties of individuals either in the Cyber Space or in the Real world.

Cyber Accidents may occur either because of the lack of technical skill or knowledge of the Netizens or through negligence and lack of alertness.

Some time, accidents are caused because of the technology that creates the Virtual Property or Virtual person.

Some time accidents occur because of the mistake of some body else including deliberate criminal or mischievous acts.

Examples of Cyber Accidents:

When Companies move on to the web, their web site becomes the “Digital Face” of the Company. The Cyber Image of the Company is derived from what the website does or does not do to the visitor.

If consequent to the visit to a web site, a Visitor is infected with a virus, then the image of the Company must take a dent. If the website collects personal information of the visitor which it lets be stolen by “Spam Mailers” or it itself uses for “Spam”, then again the image must suffer.

If a Company which is trying to project an image of a Software security expert or a Government Department which is a symbol of National Security gets hacked and defaced, then the years of brand building in the Meta Space can evaporate on the fly.

If by entering into an E-Commerce transaction, the credit card information of the customer gets compromised and misused by a hacker entering the web site, the customers would not only get a bad image of the Company but would also expose it to litigation that may eventually kill the Company itself.

If a Company lets its “Brand” be used by some body else as a “Domain Name”, it is an open invitation to let its brand  image be diluted.

If in the unfortunate event of the domain name falling into wrong hands, the image of the other domain name user will rub onto the brand. A living example of this kind of is the case of CII Southern region domain name which now stands in the name of “Asia’s Sexiest Pornographic Site”. We will see more of this kind of embarrassment for Indian Corporates in the days to come. The embarrassment may not end with your valued customers being cyberjacked to a pornographic site.

Imagine the consequences of a Company’s visitors being lead to the Lashkar e Toiba site or the LTTE site. It may make the CEO of the Company cool his heels in a prison under POTA and an unforgettable PR disaster for the Company.

Every Cyber Crime such as E-mail ID spoofing, IP address spoofing, Hacking, Virus, Distributed Denial Of Service attacks on the Company and where the Company’s network has been used, are all potential PR nightmares.

These crimes may cause defamation, loss of customer confidence, erosion of brand personality and legal liabilities.

 Impact of Accidents on Image:

When a Company or even an individual meets with an accident, there is an inevitable impact on the image of the victim.

If a person walks into an open man hole in broad day light, public will call him blind and make fun of him. But if a pedestrian walking on the foot path is hit by a vehicle driven carelessly, the victim will be sympathised and supported by the on lookers.

If a vehicle owner accidentally hurts another and runs away, he is termed a criminal who has committed a “ Hit and Run” crime. On the other hand if he stops and takes care of the victim, he avoids the “Criminal Image” and possibly derives a positive image as well.

Similarly, on the web if the victim has been prudent before the accident and takes proper actions there after, the image impact of the accident can be minimized, eliminated or even turned into an advantage.

It is therefore essential for Netizens, Corporates and Government Departments to develop appropriate strategies to meet the “Cyber Accidents” and have a “Disaster Management Problem”.

One of the best guidelines for how to handle “Cyber Accidents” lies in “Cyber Law  Compliancy”.  Law essentially codifies the norm of the society and by definition the “Norm” has to be the least damaging to the society and therefore is an acceptable way of life. It is like a road accident which occurs when you are following every law versus when you are flouting the law. Irrespective of the damage caused, an accident which occurs while you are complying with the law will not result in damage to your reputation or your purse. On the other hand, even a minor accident when you are violating a law can get magnified in terms of loss of reputation as well as increased liability.

Cyber Law Compliancy is therefore an “Insurance against Cyber Accidents” and the aim of every corporate is to aim at developing a systematic approach towards “Cyber Law Compliancy”.

This requires knowledge of what is the law and what is the expected behaviour under the given circumstances.

A brief summary of actions required to be taken by a Company in following the Cyber Law is:

      1. Avoid infringing on the Intellectual Property Rights of others.

      2. Protect your Intellectual Property Rights.

      3. Secure your network from hacking and virus attacks with the best available resources. Any thing less would be  considered as “Negligence”.

      4. Use Digital Signatures to authenticate all outgoing messages and to protect information asset within the  network.

      5. Develop a Cyber Law Compliancy manual in consultation with experts and make your employees accountable to a security routine.

      6. Remember that your web presence can create a positive image if properly used but can create a negative image if not.

      7. Remember that your image in the real world can be hurt even if you are not on the web by a disgruntled customer or an employee who puts up a website to reveal all the skeletons in your cupboard real or imaginary.

      8. When an accident occurs, do not remain action less. Respond in the right manner aimed at stopping further  losses, recovering past losses and keeping affected parties adequately informed.

      9. Last but not the least, equip your employees with Cyber Law related knowledge. Let them be Cyber Law  literate and know how to “Write Digitally”, “How to Sign Digitally”, “How to talk digitally” etc without  compromising the image of the organization that they represent.  

Naa Vijayashankar (Naavi) - Profile                                

Naavi  is an E-Business Consultant with specialization in Cyber Laws based in Chennai. A past Banker, Merchant Banker and a Financial Communication expert, Naavi is a pioneer in the field of Cyber Laws. He was the author of the first book on Cyber Laws in India, maintains the only dedicated Cyber Law Information portal in India namely www.naavi.com (also mirrored at www.naavi.org) , is the pioneer in spreading Cyber Law Education in India through the only such virtual Cyber Law College- www.cyberlawcollege.com.

Naavi has leveraged his vast corporate experience to the designing of several novel and much needed web related services such as his patent pending Verify For Look Alike service for resolving Domain Name Disputes,  Adview Certification Service for a Trusted third party ad exposure measurement system for Net advertising,  Netizen’s Cash, a revolutionary payment system for the web and Cyber Evidence Archival Center, a first of the kind service to help the Cyber judicial system.

Naavi is also in the forefront of many Community initiatives such as the Cyber Democracy, Revenue Focus and Appropriate Technology Focus for E-Governance Projects,  Development of a Center for IT Empowerment of SMEs and Spread of Cyber Law Literacy.

Naavi may be contacted at naavi@vsnl.com  Website www.naavi.com


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