What happens when a computer or a laptop is hacked?


In the recent world, computers have become an integral part of our daily lives. A spectacular revolution has taken place in the field of electronics and new arenas of communication have emerged as a result of the discovery of computers. The Internet has enhanced the better functioning of the computers making it an irreplaceable ingredient of business, economic and educational world.

Technological advances are influenced to a greater extent by the introduction of electronic methods of data exchange and as a result of which the world has become a global village. Countries around the world have developed a greater degree of interdependence and the developed countries tend to have better developments in the field of technology.

The method of data exchange is enhanced by computers. As new fields emerge, the complications and the issues in proper functioning arise simultaneously. The issues can be addressed only through proper legislation and after rigorous discussions in general assembly Model law of Electronic Commerce was adopted by the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law. With proper consideration of those regulations, the Information Technology Act, 2000 was enacted in the parliament.[1]

This Act addresses the issues relating to electronic commerce which involves the use of alternatives to paper-based methods of communication and storage. The main problem arose when the computers that were used in collecting and processing the information was intercepted by a person who was not authorized to do so. This is called hacking.

The general definition of computer:

A computer system is a device or a collection of devices including input and output support devices and excluding calculators which are not programmable and capable of being used in conjunction with external files, which contain computer programmes, electronic instruments, input and output data that performs logic, arithmetic, data storage and retrieval, communication control and other functions.[2]

The general definition of hacking

As per the definition stated in the oxford dictionary, hacking means gaining unauthorized access to data in a system or computer. This takes place without the knowledge of the beholder of data. These data could be manipulated into something dangerous to them or society. Hacking requires an intention or knowledge for causing wrongful loss or damage to commit the crime (mens rea).

Essential ingredients for hacking:

As per section 66 of the Information Technology act, Hacking becomes a crime under certain conditions. They are

  • Mere commission of hacking is not essentially a crime.
  • The unauthorized access must result in destruction or deletion or alteration of any information residing in a computer resource.
  • Such activity must lead to the diminution of value of the material contained inside it has affected the information injuriously.
  • Such activity was done to cause or knowing that it is likely to cause wrongful loss or damage to the public or person.[3]


 In the case of Tarun Tyagi vs. Central Bureau of Investigation, on the basis of a complaint lodged by Director/complainant, a First Information Report (FIR) was registered by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) wherein the Appellant was made an accused. In the said FIR, the complainant had alleged that the Appellant had stolen the ‘source code’ of a software known as ‘Quick Recovery’  from the complainant’s company computer system and thereafter put it for sale on the website of the Appellant company under the name ‘Prodatadoctor’. Case was registered under Section 66 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 and Sections 63 and 63B read with Section 14(b) (ii) of the Copyright Act, 1957. The CBI took up the investigation and seized certain documents and material from the office/residential premises of the Appellant.[4]

In the case of Abhinav Gupta v State of Haryana[5], the terms ‘hacker’ and ‘hacking’ was defined. In that particular case, the petitioner was a former employee in the company A and was accused of stealing their confidential information and mailed those to Company B through his personal email. That information was accessible to him during his employment in Company A were found in the computer source that was available in that company. Though he mailed those documents from his personal mail, he was accused of stealing documents from the computer system under Section 66 of the Information Technology Act.

Methods by which computer are hacked

  • By using readymade programs.
  • By writing programs to attack the target computer.

Ways in which hackers obtain access:

  • Through malicious emails: Random mails are sent with attachments and in opening such attachments malicious software is automatically downloaded into the targeted computers.
  • Through emails that contain links to malicious websites: This is often referred to be phishing. The emails are projected to be legitimate while it may lead to certain fake websites that may steal sensitive information from the computer systems or laptops.
  • Through unnecessary ads on websites that may contain malicious code.
  • By creating fake profiles on social networking sites that could gain access to the information in the personal computer.[6]

Penalties and punishments for computer hacking:

Under Chapter XI of the Information Technology Act provides for the offenses and the punishments for cybercrimes that had been discussed in preceding sections.

  • For offenses committed under section 65 of the Act, i.e) Tampering with computer source documents, punishment is up to three years imprisonment or with fine up to Rs.2 lakhs or with both.
  • For any computer-related offenses under section 66 of the Act, punishment is given up to three years or more with a fine up to Rs.1 lakh or with both.[7]

How a complaint can be filed when any of the offenses under the Act has been committed?

As far as the jurisdiction relating to the cyber crimes are concerned, the Information Technology Act applies to the whole of India and also applies to offenses committed by persons outside India[8].

Steps in filing the complaint:

1. A written complaint must be filed in the cyber cell of the city in which the person is currently present. The complaint shall be filed as soon as the person gets to know about such commission of crime.

2. The complaint must be addressed to the Head of the Cybercrime cell of the city where the complaint has been filed.

3. If the complaint could not be filed in the cyber cell, an FIR can be filed in the local police station. Every police officer is bound to accept the complaint under section 154 of Criminal Procedure Code[9] as a majority of the cyber crimes are cognizable offenses ( Cognizable offenses are those which do not require any warrant to arrest or investigate the accused person).[10]

4. In the case of cybercrimes that are related to social media, complaints can be filed in the online portal of the cyber cells across India.[11]

Developments in the communication system and digital technology have made stupendous changes in the way in which our lives revolve. The mode of business transactions and education are increasingly using computers for their work purposes. The information stored, processed and transmitted are cheaper, easier to store and provides speeder communication. As a coin has both signs there are both advantages and disadvantages. Unavailability of a proper legal framework and inefficient implementation has made it indecisive. Dynamic and fruitful amendment and sufficient awareness among the public will help in curbing the cyber crimes in India.

Edited by Pragash Boopal

Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje


[1] The Information Technology Act,2000 Act No.21 of 2000

[2] Section 2(1) (l) of The Information Technology Act,2000

[3] Section 66 of the Information Technology Act,2000

[4] AIR2017SC1136

[5] Abhinav Gupta V. State Of Haryana LNIND 2008 PNH 208

[6] https://www.bullguard.com/blog/2015/04/how-hackers-access-your-computer.html

[7]  R.P. Kataria and S.K.P Srinivas, Cyber Crimes (Law, Practice, Procedure ) Along with Cyber Evidence and Information Technology Act,2000 with Allied Rules.,214-215,222-223(2nd edition,2018), Orient Publishing Company, Allahabad.

[8] Section 1 of the Information Technology Act,2000


[10] https://ifflab.org/

[11] https://cybercrime.gov.in/

Shuruthi Jegannathan
This is Shuruthi Jegannathan pursuing BA LLB in Sastra Deemed to be University. My areas of interest include Constitutional Law, Sociology, Criminal Laws and Jurisprudence. I would always love to play the role of the researcher in the moot court competition and has staunch interest in quiz competitions. I work best as a team member and I believe team works bring effective results. I am fond of Indian vegetarian cuisine and I'd love to claim myself as a foodie. I like binge-watching Tv Series. I see myself to be a person who continues to read and write a lot about legal issues in the coming future.