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Cyber Law (Internet Law)

What is Cyberspace Law?

As the Internet continually evolves, so do the various laws that regulate the internet. These are continually changing to help provide consumers and citizens with various protections in connection with digital assets and activity online. 

Cyberspace law generally encompasses various legal issues involving the communication, distribution, and transactions that occur over the internet and other types of networked devices and technologies. Some common issues that cyberspace law covers include:

  • Domain Name Disputes: A domain name is the address of a particular website on the internet, or the URL. Many businesses use their existing business names or similar names as domain names. Some disputes may arise as to which business or entity owns or has rights to use a particular domain name.
  • Trademark Infringement: Small changes in a domain name from a similarly named site may be considered trademark infringement, especially if it results in consumer confusion. If you already have a trademark for your business name, and the domain name is taken by someone else, you may have an actionable trademark infringement claim.
  • Cybersquatting Issues: Cybersquatting occurs when a party takes your established business name or mark, registers it as a domain name, and waits for you to try to use your business name or mark as your own domain name. The innocent and established business will then be forced to buy from the cybersquatter at a high price.
  • Hacked Emails: – Email communications move across many lines to get to its final destination. Email is generally not absolutely protected from hackers who wish to know the contents of the email. This can cause various issues regarding privacy and other concerns.  

What are E-Commerce Laws?

E-commerce generally refers to the way that business or transactions occur online or on a digital basis. This can include activities ranging from minor retail transactions with a small business, to contracts, up to the buying and selling of a business. Many issues can commonly arise in the context of e-commerce in the world of cyberspace. These include:

Security and Digital Signatures: Issues such as credit card security, digital signatures, and biometrics can be of concern when conducting business online.

Contract Formation: Newer legal issues arise when forming a contract in an electric forum because it must still adhere to traditional contract laws, even though there may be differences in the way that contract terms are delivered and received.

Liability of Internet Providers: Internet service providers sometimes face liability when events such as Internet outages occur. This is because they can have devastating effects on contract formation, business revenue, and profits (online businesses can lose significant amounts of daily business if their internet goes out even for a day or part of a day).

What are Cyber Crimes?

The term “cyber crime” refers to crimes that are committed using computers and the internet. Also referred to as computer-oriented crime, it generally involves a computer and a network. Cyber crimes can also be committed using other devices, such as tablets and cell phones. Under such definitions, the computer or device could either be used in the commission of the crime, or it may be the target.

Cyber crimes are punishable offenses. Such offenses can include many different specific actions, but generally involve the theft of personal information, bank account information, and online assets. As technology advances and expands at such a rapid pace, the number of cyber crimes and cyber criminals have risen to become a daily reality.

Additionally, cyber crime can be difficult to detect because of rapid technological advancements. It can be difficult for the proper authorities to stay on top of the many different schemes and crimes that are in circulation. Because of this, no one is immune from being a victim of cyber crimes. Targets of cyber crimes most commonly include but are not limited to:

  • Individuals;
  • Companies;
  • Organizations;
  • Banks;
  • Schools;
  • Governments; and
  • Other entities, such as hospitals.

Cyberspace law or cyberlaw also regulates cybercrimes, which may be defined as any crime that is accomplished through the use of a computer or network. These can include crimes such as:

  • Hacking and other cybersecurity issues and crimes;
  • Various copyright and trade secret violations;
  • Fraud and financial crimes, especially identity theft;
  • Various pornography-related charges;
  • Harassment, cyberbullying, or stalking (“cyberstalking”);
  • Drug trafficking;
  • Online terrorism activities;
  • Various crimes involving invasions of privacy or breaches of confidential information; and
  • Various other types of crimes.

These crimes can be serious and may result in severe legal penalties, including criminal fines and possible jail or prison sentences. Some of these may result in serious federal charges.

What Are some Examples of Cyber Crime?

Cyber crimes may be very simple, such as disrupting normal internet access or very complex, such as infiltrating a government. They may be criminal transactions, as well as instructions or breaches of privacy. Some of the most common examples of the various different cyber crimes include:

Cyberbullying: Cyberbullying refers to sending or posting hateful and/or hurtful messages or images about another person. It is a crime prevalent among younger generations, and has only been designated a crime relatively recently; nonetheless, it is still a valid and legitimate crime. Teen and college aged students are often the most common victims of cyberbullying by way of social media. However, it is not a crime exclusive to younger generations. Some jurisdictions impose penalties for repeat offenders;

Cyberterrorism: Cyberterrorism is used to create fear and panic, and often to incite violence. It is much the same as terrorism, but in a virtual space. Cyberterrorism commonly puts people's lives in danger. An example of this would be if a cyberterrorist alters the medical records of patients at a hospital. Such an act could obviously have devastating and deadly consequences;

Distribution of Child Pornography: It is an unfortunate fact that it is difficult to track down the cyber criminal source of child pornography. This is because of the criminal's ability to remain largely anonymous on the internet. It is imperative to remember that American courts have determined that the very existence of the child pornography infers that other crimes and/or violations occurred in order to create the exploitative content;

Identity Theft: Identity theft May be the most common type of cyber crime. It can occur when someone steals another person's personal information, generally for their own financial gain. Identity theft is most commonly achieved through a phishing scheme in order to illegally gain access to unsuspecting victims' bank accounts, or credit cards;

Money Laundering: Criminals electronically move around money obtained through criminal activity. The money is moved to different businesses and bank accounts, often legitimate. However, the criminal's goal is to hide the fact that the money was obtained illegally; and

Ransomware: Ransomware is malicious software, installed by hackers. It typically targets individuals, although larger groups such as hospitals and local governments are not immune. Ransomware prevents users from accessing sensitive records and information until a ransom, or payoff, is made to the cyber criminal.

What About Privacy Issues?

Cyberspace law also covers various privacy issues. As more and more people engage in social, economic, and political interactions online, more legal issues will continue to arise. Many of these deal with violations of privacy. In many cases, these issues are related to or involved in attempts to steal one's identity or monetary assets, or subject them to harmful software or internet attacks. Such issues can include:

  • Malware: This is software that bypasses digital security measures and is used to cause damage to a computer, server or network. This is sometimes common in a business setting as well.
  • Spyware: This is software or other digital mechanisms that obtain information from a person's computer, network, or servers without their consent. This can lead to the theft of confidential information, files, or accounts.
  • Web bugs: These are often placed in a web page or email and tracks a person's views of website or email message, or other online activity. This can sometimes be used to learn a person's habits or passwords.
  • Phishing: This involves the process of trying to obtain user names, passwords, credit card or bank information through targeted attacks. It can often be prosecuted as a crime. For instance, a phishing scheme may target certain groups of people, such as senior citizens.
  • Pharming: This type of activity redirects traffic from a website to a different internet address. This can create business losses and various other types of legal issues.
  • Social engineering: This uses many types of tactics used to trick someone into divulging confidential information. For instance, a person may pose as a military serviceman and attempt to collect donations from another person on a social media website.

Another concern is with the collection of data and personal information by companies and businesses. Various lawsuits have been filed in connection with businesses or other entities that unlawfully obtain people's consumer information for profit or gain. This can include information such as credit card activity, spending habits, websites visited, and personal contact info such as phone numbers, home addresses, and other private data.

Should I Hire an Attorney If I Have an Issue with Cyberspace Law?

Laws are slowly catching up with the advances that are constantly made with the Internet. A lawyer in your area can keep you updated regarding the new laws regulating business on the Internet to insure that your business conforms. A business attorney can also help you if you feel you have been a victim of an internet crime or scam. If you need to file a lawsuit, your attorney can assist with the legal process as well.

If you are the victim of a cyber crime, it may be necessary to report any criminal activities to local authorities. Further, if the violation is work-related, you should inform your work supervisor and/or IT division so they can investigate the matter. Whether you are the victim of a cyber crime, or are being accused of committing a cyber crime, you should consult with a skilled and knowledgeable criminal lawyer.

An experienced cyber crime lawyer can inform you of your rights and options, as well as represent you in court as needed. The attorney can assist victims in the process of reporting the crime, and provide potential defenses to a person facing cyber crime accusations.

Call our office today at 212-994-7777 or complete the convenient online contact form to set up a consultation.