Lawyers needed for cybercrimes

Sivasubramaniam: Cyberlaw is still a niche area with plenty of potential for lawyers and law students.

THE increase in cybercrimes has given rise to the need for more cybercrime lawyers.

According to Cyber999 statistics, 10,722 cybercrimes were reported last year, with most cases involving fraud, intrusion, malicious code and cyber harassment.

Multimedia University (MMU) Faculty of Management law lecturer Dr Bahma Sivasubramaniam says cybercrime falls under cyberlaw.

But as of now, we don’t have lawyers specialising in cyberlaw in Malaysia, she says.

The former lawyer says cyberlaw is still a niche area with plenty of potential for lawyers and law students.

“Cyberlaw is a generic term to describe all kinds of activities that take place in cyberspace through the use of a computer on the Internet.

“If you enter into a contract online, it’s contract law. If you do file-sharing online, that’s copyright law.

“It’s a legal area on its own.”

“Cybercrime is on the rise and we need to have knowledgeable experts on it, ” she says, adding that this is especially crucial as we’re moving towards carrying out our daily lives - from banking to buying movie tickets - online.

More cybercrimes are being committed because people are unaware that what they’re doing online can compromise their privacy.

It can even lead to lawsuits as society has taken to sharing their each and every thought on social media with a false sense of belief that their words have no consequences.

She says an important area of cybercrime is identity theft and phishing.

However, she says, cyberlaw does not exist in a silo and is tied to other areas such as contract law and copyright law.

It is also tied to other legal elements like forensic evidence.

“If you’re acting for the accused, you need to have the knowledge to cross examine the forensic experts, ” she explains.

She says that lawyers specialising in cybercrime would need to know what sort of evidence is permissible in court.

“Things like printouts and emails which do not have signatures - how would you know who actually penned it?

“Anyone could have hacked into your inbox and sent the email, ” she adds.

She encourages lawyers to equip themselves with IT skills, as it would be a strength and an asset for them.

Unfortunately for us, cybercrime has evolved but the laws governing have not. There are currently two laws relating to the Internet and cyberspace in Malaysia, she says.

“Computer Crimes Act 1997 relates to crimes relating to computers - hacking, phishing, cracking and virus attacks.

“The Communications And Multimedia Act 1998 relates to content, ” she says, adding that this includes offensive content on blogs and emails.

Law practitioners who specialise in cyberlaw, she says, can contribute towards updating and amending these two laws.

While amending archaic laws are important, a more pressing issue is to combat cybercrimes and to raise public awareness on its dangers.

Many are unaware that some of the things they are doing are illegal, and can put their personal liability and liberty at risk, she says.

“They can be sued for defamation and this is scary because a person will have to pay compensation that can amount to four or five-figures if found guilty.”

But it’s not just lawyers who should have some knowledge of cybercrimes and the laws related to it. At MMU, cyberlaw is compulsory for law students. All other students have the option to learn some aspect of law that is related to their course.

“We recognise the importance of cyberlaw and we’re raising awareness among our students in regard to its role and relevance to their specific discipline.”

She also teaches about the abuse of social media because students need to know the implications of using the Internet.

“I bring cyberlaw into the areas that I’m teaching.

“For example, you can’t simply write anything in an email because it can give rise to criminal offences like defamation.

“Cyberlaw affects a lot of people but they are not aware of the consequences of their actions.”

Advising lawyers and those aspiring to join the profession to specialise in cyberlaw, she says IR4.0 will bring about a whole new set of legal implications for society.

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