Fighting cyber crimes in East Africa

August 10, 2015

In short, cyber crime is defined as a crime related to technology, computers and the Internet. It can be treated as either an ordinary crime using the hi-tech means of computer technology, which new breed of criminal acts need new,comprehensive legal framework to overcome its special characteristic of technological sophistication that would continue to develop, which means that East African countries needs a separate provision outside their existing Criminal Codes. What would be an equally important step in the campaign to fight the increase in East African cyber crime in the absence of a cyber crime code is to improve the implementation of existing legal instruments, because, regardless of whether it is a low-tech or hi-tech crime, damage and loss has been inflicted on its victims. Internet users may account for less than 10 percent of Africa’s estimated population of 1 billion, but this is a continent where Internet cafes provide free cards for customers to hold cyber-transactions, thus opening the doors wide open to abuse. In fact, a recent report by Interpol has lodged not less than 1,000 complaints with different police departments across the continent concerning abuses of Internet transactions, mostly credit card fraud with Nigeria and South Africa being the main hubs of such crimes.

Africa is a continent that does not have a law on cyber crime. So far, few countries have been able to handle less than 10 percent of those reported crimes,”” said a cyber crime expert who works at one of African country Police department. Why? I asked him – Contador its because they’re difficult to handle. Very often, “the victim is a card owner in the United Kingdom, Europe, Australia,Canada and United States but the fraud has been committed via the Internet in Lagos or Pretoria. The thief has purchased goods from online shops in South Korea, and asked that they be delivered to Lagos or Pretoria.” Suspects in those cases are usually charged on forgery, fraud and theft of the existing Criminal Codes in their respective countries but there has been very few successful prosecutions.Nigeria has reportedly been identified as the number one country in Africa,followed by South Africa, with the most cases of cyber crime, according to a research by an information technology expert at an UK university. Nigeria is finding itself overwhelmed by the sudden outburst of Internet crime, which more often that not takes place in either Abuja or Lagos. To give credit where credit is due, the Nigerian police have prepared themselves by establishing a cyber crime unit under its IT sub-directorate, which has been working for the last few years.

In fact, according to an Australian cyber crime expert consulting for several corporate companies in Nigeria mainly banks, head of IT department handling Special Crimes of the Nigerian Police was conceived several years ago when the country under the retired President Olesegun Obasanjo predicted the birth of “”hi-tech crimes”” after Nigerian scam mails dominated the late 1990s and early 2000s online crime.South Africa government has attempted to circumvent this legal void by taking some ad-hoc measures such as establishing cooperation with other countries.Kenya and Uganda have recently signed a memorandum of understanding that will help the two countries fight transnational crimes such as the trafficking of women and children, the smuggling of firearms, terrorism and cyber crime. The MOU on Transnational Crimes would provide a framework for preventing, investigating, disrupting and dismantling transnational crime involving both countries, according to an insider privy to the information. Late last year, the East African Community (EAC) member states agreed to build e-linkages among themselves as a way to boost connectivity and overcome the digital divide.That meant greater opportunities for Internet usage and an e-network for e-commerce and e-transactions. Indeed, it took only three years for the five countries countries of the EAC to give birth to 20 million new users of the Internet. In Kenya,15 percent of its population now have access to the Internet and cellular telephones, bypassing the limited growth of fixed-line telephones and enabling farmers to obtain real-time changes in commodity prices.

In East African region, a large percentage of Internet service providers have collapsed, especially after the facility Voice over Internet Protocol is shunted by many but the number of Internet users continues to grow even in remote areas as they go hand-in-hand with the growth of telecommunication kiosks and mobile service vendors. East Africa’s Cyber Crime unit that is primarily handled by Police departments of each country, identifies cyber crimes as an offenses against the confidentiality, integrity and availability of computer data and systems that cover illegal access, illegal interception, data interference, system interference and misuse of devices. Included in this category is hacking.In Tanzania,Kenya and Uganda also have additional definitions that include computer-related offenses such as forgery and fraud,content-related offenses such as child pornography as well as offenses related to the infringement of copyright and related rights including intentional aiding and abetting these offenses. However, the law and government-sponsored measures are only a partial answer to the problem. IT-based organizations have to remain vigilant against the onslaught of cyber crime that threatens them once they enter the cyber world. In fact, it is important for any institution or individual entering the cyber world to have cyber security plans. This means a commitment to train personnel to handle sensitive data, record transactions and build security technology such as a firewall system, anti-virus software and authentication services.

Contador Harrison