The scourge of cybercrime

The scourge of cybercrime

MASERU – INTERNET is fast growing into a basic need for many people in the developing world, and Lesotho is no exception. Yet, it comes with risks.
Lesotho has witnessed a boom in internet usage over the past two decades, as a vast number of the population turn to the internet for daily basics.
In 2000, the country had a modest 3000 users. By 2016, the number had ballooned to at least 400 000 users by 2016, according to the website, Internet Live Stats.

Those numbers have continued to climb as the mobile network coverage expands.
But, the growth in internet usage has come with risks, particularly cybercrime and the police say they are worried that the lack of a comprehensive legal framework exposes people to cyber criminals.

“If the law is silent on cybercrime, cyber-crime cannot be a crime and stand in the court of law,” said police spokesperson, Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli, describing cybercrime as one of the law enforcement agency’s biggest challenges.

“Lack of this law creates a haven or a place of rest for cyber criminals,” Superintendent Mopeli told thepost this week.
Another challenge is lack of cyber-security technical skills.
Superintendent Mopeli said as technology evolves so should police capabilities.

“All officers in the cyber-crime department must be trained and skilled in the field of cyber technology and security,” said the police spokesperson.
The Ministry of Communications, the police and other relevant ministries and development partners have stepped in to assist in the training of police officers on cyber-security.

However, this is far from adequate, said Superintendent Mopeli, noting that officers need equipment, resources and the right infrastructure to fully utilise their skills.
“We need to understand that this is a specialised crime and it needs the highest level of special skills and knowledge and resources,” Superintendent Mopeli said.

“Criminals use advanced technology and digital equipment to perform such crimes and we need to be up to speed with or ahead of them,” he said.
Authorities have begun taking steps to fill the void. The government has developed a Computer and Cyber-crime Bill, which Minister of Communication, Thesele ‘Maseribane, said was to be tabled in the first session of the ninth parliament.

In February this year, the Ministry of Communications held a cyber-security workshop under the consultancy of World Bank Global Cyber-security Capacity Centre, International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and University of Oxford representatives.

Next year, the ministry will hold another training session on cyber-security.
’Maseribane acknowledged that the cyber threats faced by Lesotho and the world at large is increasingly sophisticated, trans-boundary and asymmetric in nature “hence a need for appropriate legal frameworks as well as unified international approach”.
One sector particualrly affected by the absence of the cyber-security law is the media fraternity.

Last week, the media fraternity called for the regulation of social media and a development of a cyber-security law that will protect communication and media users against cybercrimes. The recommendation was made as part of a report by the media on its expectations in the on-going media reforms process.
Media practitioners at the multi-stakeholders National Dialogue- Plenary II of the National Reforms agenda called for laws to protect the media profession and communication users.

Presenting the report on the media, Tsebo Matšasa, former Media Institute for Southern Africa (MISA-Lesotho) director, said journalism’s credibility is threatened by the porous freedom on social media.
Matšasa said these platforms need to be regulated to hold those that infringe on other people’s rights accountable.
Matšasa later told thepost that such a law would not restrict freedom of expression and freedom of speech of the media or people but would ensure social media abusers are nabbed.

“We are trying to protect the rights of the people and the credibility and identity of media because it cannot be ignored that there is serious misuse of social media and that crimes are being committed in our cyber networks,” Matšasa said.
The report, compiled by Matšasa, Mzimkhulu Sithetho and Dr. Bob Wekesa, notes that lack of legislation made investigations of cyber-security crimes difficult.

The report proposes that the government should formulate a cyber-security policy and enact a law on cybercrime.
The policy should also include measures to curtail social media as conduits of social crimes.

“Government must develop a policy on how to curb fake information that is being conveyed by social media platforms as this has far-reaching implications on building a society that is prone to lies and misinformation by social media platforms,” reads the report.
Matšasa said the government should register ownership of mobile phone and sim-cards to track abusers of the internet, social media platforms and for effective regulation of the usage of technology.

Matšasa told thepost that in developing these cyber-security laws, the government should strengthen laws on privacy and freedom of expression and speech so that security agencies, government and those in power do not misuse the cyber-security law as is common in other countries.

“There should be legal measures to protect journalists and their sources especially if confidential and private information is tapped without the consent of the journalist,” he said.
“We are aware that some agencies may use this law to stifle the freedom of media.”

Rose Moremoholo

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