Cyber Crimes and Concept of Jurisdiction

The present techno savvy world is globally interconnected in almost every aspect by the world wide web and has become an essential for life as the internet is utilised for wide variety of purposes like that of economic, political and social interactions all across the world. The invention of the World Wide World by Tim Berners-Lee has changed the way not only people but also the ways in which nations function. No doubt, this interconnection brought about by the internet has a lot of merits like that of removal of physical constraints for communication, quick access to information, the ease of work and so on.

In this age when the use of internet has become indispensable because of its wide spread network, it also exposes people and their systems to the potential threat of cyber attacks. There is no such specified area which is affected by the perils of cyber attacks; they range from private individuals, industries to governments. The advancement in the field of technology especially in that of network and information technology throughout the world, the present legal systems around the world face an impertinent challenge as the risks of cyber attacks pose to them.

The wide interconnected network which the internet has created poses potential challenges as it has various features which attributes to the same. The first one being the global reach as there is no need of physical proximity which makes any such crime committed to be a borderless crime and well beyond the traditionally accepted notions of jurisdiction or even sovereignty in the present international and national legal systems. Another feature of concern is that of anonymity which is the perfect tool or shield for any offender especially as the same is not available in the real physical world. This feature of anonymity helps the offenders as their identities are concealed and digital evidence is removed by use of various software and other such means. The third most challenging feature is that of asymmetry as a single person or a small group of people can target large groups that too at the same time without even being present together physically at the same place. This aspect was not found in the traditional crimes and definitely poses a huge problem for the law enforcement and investigation agencies.

The above features of the internet as discussed above presents before the traditional legal systems a major issue of jurisdiction and sovereignty. The basic premise of jurisdiction and sovereignty being a problem is that it is not in consonance with the global nature of cyberspace. This is because under the concepts of jurisdiction and sovereignty, exclusive rights to investigate and try goes to the personnel or the State having jurisdiction or sovereignty over that area and excluded the involvement of any other personnel or state. However, these very delimiting concepts of jurisdiction and sovereignty become a hindrance when it comes to cyber crimes as there are no geographical boundaries in which any cyber crime can be pigeon holed in.

In terms of fixing criminal responsibility, when there are two nations involved, the law enforcement agencies of both the nations have to work in coordination to bring the offender to justice. As the nature of cybercrimes allow offenders to work from remote areas and under the cover of anonymity, it is pertinent that the law enforcement agencies work with ease with each other and put to use trans border mechanisms like that of extradition and mutual legal assistance. However, the same is not as simple as it sounds as there are a lot of nuances involved as an act punishable in one State might not be punishable in another, the countries don’t have friendly relations and mechanisms like that of extraditions cannot be put to use as may be required.

The problem is still not challenging in developed countries as in comparison to that of developing countries as the developed countries most of them have highly integrated societies like that of the European Union where there is significant level of coordination and collaboration among the States. In most developing countries, there might not even be relevant laws in respect of cyber crimes and they might not be able to enforce laws in this regard or even keep a check owing to their economic status and other factors. The threats that cyber crimes pose to such vulnerable developing countries is way more serious than the traditional ones as by putting in force measures like border control and immigration checks, the real world crimes can be controlled. However, the same doesn’t hold true in respect of cyber crimes.

One such example is that of the Love Bug malware which had targeted computers all across the globe in 2001. The offender was based in Philippines and had caused huge losses to companies like Microsoft, Siemens and Ford. However, the prosecution was difficult as at that very time, Philippines didn’t have any law in force that made such acts punishable which made even extradition impossible to the countries where immense loss had been done and which also had adequate legislative and legal infrastructure to book the offender.

Hence, we see how this global network is throwing a challenge to the present legal systems which function on traditional concepts like that of jurisdiction and sovereignty. The incident like that of Love Bug is an early example of such cyber crimes which has expanded its domain in unimaginable proportions like that of phishing, fraud and terrorist activities. With the passage of time, such attacks will become more frequent and sophisticated and the States will have to rise to the occasion and modify their legal systems especially in respect of the jurisdiction aspect.

Authored By:

Dhriti Dhairya,

LexisNexis Student Ambassador


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