It’s like the Wild West, the Internet. There are no rules. – Steven Wright
In today's time, there is no need for anyone to wait for a week or two to deliver their letters. There is no need to leave your house to shop, to go to a restaurant, wait on the road in hope of hailing a cab, everything is just a click away. Similarly, now doing a wrong deed is also a click away. To steal from someone, doesn’t require your physical presence. What is required is knowledge of the internet. Any crime that is performed through a computer or a digital device of similar nature using the internet is termed as a cybercrime. Mostly these crimes are committed by hackers who are basically people who steal or commit theft of taking away valuable data from a person for their personal gain. But, nowadays government organizations and other principled business companies hire hackers to repair their impending exposure. Therefore, these hackers are entitled as ethical hackers.
Why do hackers pilfer?
There is a very fine line between ethical hacking and hacking with illicit intent. Therefore, when it comes to hackers they can be either helpful to impede the crime or they can be the ones committing the immoral act. Hacking done the right way helps organizations in various ways like catching criminals, safeguarding the fundamental rights of citizens and so on. Hackers mostly pilfer because either they are getting paid by someone to do it or they themselves will pocket a good sum of money after the completion of the task. Other reasons include the thrill of doing a crime and not getting caught, stealing certain information and then disclosing it for private gain. The hacking could also be driven by a concealed purpose like political idealism, revenge, and so forth.
The legality of ethical hacking
In the year 2018, India came 3rd in the list of countries which face the highest cyber threats, yet ethical hacking is unexploited as an instrument to conquer this problem. Although, in the recent past many Indian colleges have been providing courses on ethical hacking it’s still not a prominent profession in India. The IT Act of 2000 does not really talk about ethical hacking and its legality though on the other hand hacking is a punishable offence in the subcontinent.
Looking at ethical hacking in light of different laws:-
 Crime or not – When we talk about crime, there is always a mention of two ingredients the first one being mens rea i.e. the wrong intention and the second one is actus reus i.e. physical act. Ethical hacking fails to fulfil both the ingredients. Hence, it will be true to say that ethical hacking is not a crime.
Constitutional perspective – In the view of the constitution, hacking violates Article 21 which talks about right to life and liberty and includes right to privacy within its ambit. Thus, hacking contravenes the fundamental rights of an individual. Contrary to this ethical hackers make sure no personal or private information is hacked and used for individual gain. Hence ethical hacking is well within the constraints of the fundamental rights and the constitution as a whole.
Information technology - All possible laws related to computer & technology are embedded in the Information Technology Act of 2000. Earlier hacking was covered as a crime under Section 43 of the IT Act, but not ethical hacking. The word ‘Hacker’ was removed from the act under IT amendment Act, 2000. After the amendment 'Hack' means illegally acquiring personal data with the intention of individual gain or with a criminal intention. As Ethical hacking does not include these previously mentioned constituents, hence according to the IT Act it is not an offence.
Indeed the internet is a tricky platform, one never knows what will happen and when. Sometimes without intent one may commit a wrong on the internet and sometimes even after willfully committing the wrong the individual may roam around free. The web world makes it harder to catch the culprit but on the other hand, it makes it easier for the crime to take place. It is like a catalyst that fastens the process and guarantees freedom to the criminals. It is a boon and a bane on both sides of the same coin. In the same way, hacking and moral hacking are sides of the very same coin. The fine line between them is intent. Hacking can be used to perform criminal activities but without any doubt, it can also be used as an important tool for stopping cybercrime as well. More and more people should be made aware of the ethics and morals of the internet and instead of hacking, moral hacking should be promoted and given importance.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Palak Rajpal is currently a 2nd Year BA.LLB student at New Law College, Bharati Vidyapeeth University, Pune. You can contact her at https://www.linkedin.com/in/palak-rajpal-6a37861ab/
Editor: Jayant Upadhyay
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