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Don't Become A 'bakra' On The Net

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> Don't Become A 'bakra' On The Net
post Sep 1 2005, 08:19 PM
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Don't become a 'bakra' on the Net
Thursday, 01 September , 2005, 13:37

(This is the second article in a series of articles on Cyber Crimes from Naavi

Forgery is a common offence we come across in the real world and is often associated with the forging of a signature for financial gain.

Also read: Understanding cyber crimes in India

On cyber space, while the forgery of a "signature" is also possible, what is of greater concern is the "forgery of a person's identity itself". This is perhaps better referred to as “Impersonation".

In an interesting case which was recently reported from Coimbatore, a woman impersonated herself as actress Asin and made a financial gain of over Rs 2 lakh from an innocent boy residing in Canada.

In this case, the lady who was a middle aged housewife, established contact with the boy through chat rooms and befriended him. She changed her name and called herself by a modern name.

Simultaneously, she picked up a photograph of the actress from the Internet and sent it as her photo to the unsuspecting boy. The verbal charm displayed by the woman on the chat room and the photograph of the good-looking film actress was sufficient for the boy to be hooked on to the woman and propose marriage. The lady had successfully forged not only her name but also her physical identity.
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What was even more interesting was that when the boy landed up in Coimbatore to have a personal meeting with his virtual friend, along with some gifts, she faked her absence. She informed the boy that one of her friends would meet him instead to receive the gifts. She herself posed as the girl’s friend and received the gifts too.

The entire episode came to an end when the proud boy shared the photograph of his fiancée with a friend who luckily recognised it as the photograph of an actress.

The Police successfully solved the case and secured arrest of the innovative forger, bringing to an end an interesting cyber crime.

Incidentally, the episode highlights one of the serious problems associated with the Internet namely the ability to send and receive e-mails and participate in online interactions using any assumed name or “avtar”. It is fun to be able to assume a different identity if it is for a game. But when it comes to more serious aspects of life, it could be dangerous.

Anonymity and Pseudonomity are in fact one of the strengths of Internet without which the use of Internet would not have grown to the extent it has.

But it is this strength which criminal minded individuals also misuse. Obviously, if Internet has to be used for e-Commerce, it is necessary to have a proper check on this ability to forge identities.

Technology has in fact provided an answer to this problem of identification on the virtual space. Indian laws have also been suitably modified to take note of the need to develop a “Digital Identity” with which “Forgery” could be identified.

For example, it is possible for Indians to obtain a digital passport in the form of “Digital Signature Certificate” from authorities specially appointed by the Government for this purpose. Before such a digital identity certificate is issued by the agency, they verify the physical identity of the person through his Passport, Ration Card etc, obtain a signature on the application and introduction from another known person as is the practice in opening of a Bank account.

After such verification, the person is given the “Digital Signature Certificate” with which he can identify himself on the Internet for any transactions. In fact, these certificates are considered good enough even to sign contractual agreements over Internet. Such signatures are called “Digital Signatures”.

If the Canadian boy who was involved in the impersonation case cited earlier had asked his virtual lady love to send a digitally signed e-mail he would have perhaps avoided being cheated the way he was.

It would have prevented the lady from changing her name and would have made her legally accountable for the photo she sent or any other correspondence she made.

Unfortunately, most of us have no clue on how to digitally sign electronic communications and we therefore make it easy for others to cheat us. In fact most of us are “Digital Illiterates” since though we know how to write digitally we do not know how to sign digital documents.

Equipping one self with ability to sign electronic documents of course involves a cost, something like Rs 500 or 1000/- per year. But it could be the answer to “Forgery in Cyber Space and Insisting on digitally signed communications could prevent one self from being a “Bakra on the Net”.;~on~the~Net

"The moment we want to believe something, we suddenly see all the arguments for it, and become blind to the arguments against it."
"Reading made Don Quixote a gentleman, but believing what he read made him mad. "
"You'll never have a quiet world till you knock the patriotism out of the human race. "
George Bernard Shaw
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