“I called the Vatican. I asked for the Pope. I said, this is Henry Kissinger calling on behalf of Richard Nixon at the summit meeting in Moscow. I was talking to an operator. And, she said, “Why don’t you call back in an hour?”

“This time, I got to a bishop. I said - can I talk to the Pope? And he said, “You’re not Henry Kissinger. I just spoke to Henry Kissinger!”

That was Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple with the legendary Steve Jobs, committing a ‘phreak,’ an amalgam of phone and freaking, which could now well be called a cybercrime.

The iconic Steves, Wozniak and Jobs, had no intent to commit a crime. Yet pranks could be seeds for crimes, writes NS Nappinai, Advocate, Supreme Court, in her CSassy Tales - Cybercrime Stories and the Law. Sassy as in lively, bold and cheeky. “The ….instances …reflect the serious consequences of simple pranks and innocent shares online.”

India is poised to have 966 million mobile users by 2023. Parliament was informed on 20th July, 2022, according to CERT-In (Indian Computer Emergency Response Team), that 14,02,809 and 6,74,021 cyber security incidents were observed during 2021 and 2022 (up to June) respectively.

Sans legalese and technical jargon

Against this backdrop, the need for a book on cybercrimes sans the legalese and technical jargon, was never a more felt need, as Lt Gen (Dr) Rajesh Panth, National Cyber Co-ordinator and Special Secretary to Government of India, says in his foreword.

At one level, the book can be scary. Child and women-linked cybercrimes abound, yet reporting is rare, except say monetary losses. Even here, absence of a pursuit of offenders is appalling.

Foundationally, it is a book on ‘Law Relating to Cybercrimes’. The author follows Walt Disney’s quote, as in the preface, “I would rather entertain and hope that people learned something than educate people and hope they were entertained.”

Not easy to accomplish, as law can be dull, drab, dreary, and surely, no entertaining matter. Cybercrime is not for the victim. One felt usefully ‘educated’, while being ‘entertained’ as well.

CSassy Tales is unique, as it adopts a storytelling approach to highlight the threats on digital spaces. It identifies cybercrimes as cyber-bullying, stalking, morphing and sextortion, scams, hacking, sexual harassment, gaming and threats, emerging technologies and scams by and against children et al.

Storytelling process

The uniqueness of the book also lies in telling us ‘How to read the book’ and the way it is ‘structured’ in 26 Chapters. The appendices from page 303, comprising applicable legal provisions, a list of references (in 20 pages, reveal the painstaking research and diligence), and the alphabetical subject index, certainly enhance ease of use.

A quick run-through of the book yields many catchphrases: ‘The author walks you through the minefield of cybercrimes through the innovative process of storytelling’. ‘The book is not intended to be a legal opinion’. ‘The book is intended to be an interactive and immersive form of learning’. ‘Treating devices as entertainment options …will lead to irreversible harm to children.’ ‘Young minds conceptualise and perpetrate …. such crimes’. There are ample remedies…’fight crime through legal processes’….’ ‘We live in digital times’. ‘Victims cannot be blamed or asked to stay away … therefore, it is imperative for the law to not appear ineffective or incapable of meeting …challenges’. ‘Visit www.cybersaathi.org…for details on types of cybercrimes and remedies’. In short, a fully-rounded work.

Here is my two penny add-on. Why not consider this book or portions thereof as a part of scholastic syllabus in educational institutions? It has a work-book theme too.

To be truthful, whenever I pick up such books, which come with high ‘advance praise’, I am reminded of this immortal Groucho Marx quote, “From the moment I picked up your book until I put it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Some day I intend reading it.” One happily reports that this book is far from this genre. So I read it right away and am better off for it. Do pick it up. And spread the word among the young ones. As Arvind P Datar, Senior Advocate, says, “ …the book must be read not only by parents but by each one of us”.

While closing, it is said, ‘about the author’, Ms. Nappinai is the founder of ‘Cybersaathi’, an initiative intended to empower through knowledge of cyberlaws, threats, and vulnerabilities. This book has done no harm to the initiative and may well be a commendable cybersaathi to the digital users: We the People.

(The reviewer is a practising advocate in the Madras High Court)

Click on the link to check out the book on Amazon.