As the name implies, “cyber law” is an area of law that is concerned with any and all activities that are taking place online. It is a way to police and safeguard everyone with an Internet presence – from private individuals to businesses and government organizations.
According to one recent study, there were roughly 52 million data breaches in the second quarter of 2022 alone. While that is down from a few years earlier at the beginning of the pandemic, it is still an alarming number – and it highlights a situation that cyber laws are, in part, designed to protect against.
“Just like with most things related to the fast-paced digital world that we now live in, cyber law is an admittedly complicated topic with a lot of intricacies and nuance,” says Hazim Gaber, mechanical engineer and CEO of HSM Global and ehZee corporation. “Therefore, if you want to make sure that you come away with a well-rounded view of the subject, there are a number of important things you’ll want to keep in mind.”
Issue #1: Actions Against Individuals
One of the most critical issues that are covered by cyber law also happens to be among the most common – actions and general crimes that are directed at other individuals.
One example of this type of idea in action takes the form of identity theft. “Particularly as our lives become increasingly digital-driven, there is a wealth of personal information stored only for the purpose of convenience – including sensitive data like credit card numbers, bank statements, and more,” says Gaber. “If that information were to fall into the wrong hands, there is no limit to the damage someone might be able to do to another person’s life – which is why cyber law places such a heavy emphasis on the idea.”
Other examples of crimes that would fall under this category include but are not limited to ones like harassment and stalking. Explicit images and videos that fall under the purview of “revenge porn” – is also a major element of this issue.
Issue #2: Actions Against the Government
Another issue covered by cyber law has to do with those crimes that are directed at government organizations at the local, state, and even federal levels. The list of significant cyber incidents compiled by the Center for Strategic & International Studies is filled with such examples. In September 2022, China accused the NSA in the United States of carrying out a number of different cyber attacks against the country’s Northwestern Polytechnical University. Also in September, the hacker group Anonymous claimed responsibility for a series of attacks that targeted the Iranian government.
Acts of cyber terrorism also fall into this category, although the line between general hacking and an act that constitutes cyber terrorism is admittedly blurred.
Issue #3: Actions Against Property
Finally, we arrive at those cyber crimes that are carried out against some type of property – meaning organizations, websites, services, and more.
A DDOS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack would be a prime example. This is a type of attack designed to overwhelm a network or server with a volume of traffic it was never designed to handle, thus taking those related services offline.
“Hacking techniques like ransomware are also an unfortunately common element in this portion of cyber law,” says Gaber. “Ransomware is when a hacker uses a malicious program to essentially lock up the data on a computer or even an entire network of devices through encryption, at which point that information is then held for ransom.” According to one recent study, in the first half of 2022 alone, there were more than 236 million such incidents that took place all over the world.
Copyright infringement is another example. It is also a very broad one. Just a few of the areas that this would apply to include: ones infringing on patents or trademarks, using digital resources to steal trade secrets, defamation (including both slander and libel), and more. Having said that, even something like violating an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) might be considered a part of this type of cyber law depending on the nature of the crime in general.
Note that while these are among the most important issues covered by cyber law, they are not the only ones. Phishing attacks, ransomware, online impersonation, and freedom of speech issues – all these are equally important things that need to be carefully considered within this particular context moving forward.
In the end, cyber law itself is a relatively new concept and, because of that, is constantly evolving. The issue is that while legislation designed to protect people and entities from these types of crime can take a great deal of time to pass, the technology itself changes far more quickly. Because of that, there is often a race among those who make the laws as they attempt to keep up with – and even stay ahead of – those who wish to use computers and other digital devices to act with malicious intentions.
About Hazim Gaber
Hazim Gaber is a mechanical engineer specializing in cybersecurity and cyberlaw. His rich background in business and technology has been applied to serving Fortune 500 clients including Walmart, GM, Ford, and Apple.
He has received multiple bachelor’s degrees in the field of science and engineering, first from MacEwan University in 2013, then at the University of Calgary in 2014, and finally the University of Alberta in 2017.
To learn more about Hazim Gaber, you can visit his Linkedin profile.