I came across this relevent story in TOI, New Delhi Please read it
Onus on IP address owner to prove innocence
According To Law, Original Email User Is Liable For Any Misuse
The onus is on you to prove your cyber innocence. If someone has used your email or computer to send any illegal communication, then the laws of the country put you in a bit of a spot. As the recent episode of the email sent by terrorists from a stolen IP address has brought out, the Information Act coupled with other legal provisions make you liable for any illegal activity occurring from your Internet address, email address or computer, unless you can prove otherwise.
“It’s a principle of common law extended to the cyber world, if anything under my control is misused or causes harm or is involved in any criminal or illegal activity, then I am held liable presuming I had sufficient control over it,” explained Rodney Rider, a partner at Preconcept Law Firm. “So if my email ID or computer IP was hacked into and used to send a malicious message, then I as the actual owner would be held liable till proven otherwise,” he added.
Trouble is, an average computer literate person is not a tech warrior. He or she is merely comfortable using Internet and not really up to digging into the innards of their machines or the web. It could be an uphill battle to fight and prove his or her innocence. “The technology does provide tools to track down who stole an IP address and which computer it was used from or what computer an email was sent from even if the email had been hacked into but this information lies with the Internet Service Providers or ISPs,” said Na Vijayshankar, a Bangalore-based cyber law expert. “Each Internet user gets a unique IP address from his service provider. The cyberworld recognises you from the IP address. But each computer, just like a mobile phone, has a unique MAC or Media Access Control address. Your IP address as well as your email username and password can be stolen or hacked and be used by another person but security experts or the policing agencies can easily track if the hacked IP address or email was used from a MAC number different from yours,” said Sameer Maira, an independent web developer.
In some countries, there are provisions referred to as “E-discovery” — which allow an Internet user to ask his service provider for details of his account but such regulations do not exist in India, Vijayshankar said. “The security protocols used by ISPs in India are 12-13 months behind the rest of the world. With the Internet systems still maturing in India, the trace is easily lost at the local, city and town level though at a macro level, one can track down almost any communication,” said Nirmalya Chakravorty, an IT security and management expert dealing with banking institutions. “2007 is known within the IT sector as the year of botnets — malicious software that can sit in your machine and open it to cyber attacks, allowing hackers to ferret out information residing on your machine as well as use your machine to hack into others,” Chakravorty said. So, cases of cyber crime are increasing rapidly, even being used by corporate players to snoop on their rivals to get what’s called “over the shoulder information”, he added. The home ministry, meanwhile, has asked the telecom ministry to frame guidelines for making password usage compulsory on Wi-Fi systems. In the recent Mumbai episode, terrorists had used the Internet through an unprotected IP address of a US national, who was on Wi-Fi, to send the terror email to media organisations before the Ahmedabad blasts. Besides, the ministry has also reiterated its position regarding bringing Blackberry services under monitoring. Plugging a hole after a leak is one thing but cyber wars were all about pre-emptive intelligence, Rider said. “Like the US Patriot Act, Pota provided the government the right to keep track of and access all communication through the Internet, albeit with the condition that the security agency would divulge the details to a court immediately. This is not there now,” he added.
This was in ToI, New Delhi by Nitin Sethi TNN . We must thank Them.