Serious cybercrime has gone viral and government must seek ways to fight it

Advances in ICT have ushered in important socio-economic, political and cultural benefits as well as complex crimes.

Some experts define cyber crime as “any activity that exploits cyber space in terms of using its infrastructure and knowledge to commit crimes’’.

Criminals have developed new, sophisticated techniques and the Internet provides a huge opportunity for crime.

Numerous Internet users have fallen prey to infringements of their rights and fundamental freedoms under the 2010 Constitution, including privacy, security and intellectual property.

Examples include distribution of child pornography, or violent images, methods to commit suicide, recipes for explosives, copyright theft and offers of stolen items through classified ads or even auctions.

In Kenya, the most common cyber crime is spamming, or sending unsolicited or offensive SMS and email.

Cyber crime, which poses a threat to individuals, businesses and the State, is classified into three groups, namely attacks on liberty, on automated systems, or on cryptology systems.

First, liberty is a complex social and constitutional concept. It may encompass positive or negative rights. The loss of personal privacy in the Internet is one of the most dynamic cyber crimes.

Ethan Katsh defines privacy in his book, Law in a Digital World, as the power to control what people can come to know about you and an individual’s ability to control the treatment of personal data made available in electronic format or during the use of the Internet.

Privacy includes data relating to one’s person, health, finances, property, home, family, relationships and political strategies or communications.

Social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, desktop dating and Twitter have witnessed an explosion of subscribers in a relatively short time.

The personal information on such sites may be used in a manner detrimental to the owners.

Communication through email and BlackBerry has become the norm in business circles. These modes have been hacked into and personal details divulged.

Moreover, (the illegal) credit reference bureaus mandated to collect and keep people’s data are potential targets of cyber crime.

Although Article 31 of the new Constitution and the Banking (Credit Bureau) Regulations 2008, provide a basis for regulating the operation of such outfits, there is no clear and comprehensive law to protect private data.

Such data may be used to compromise the interest of the organisations or individuals concerned. Ensuring the security and integrity of online and offline data would help address cyber crime.

Kenya does not have sufficient legislative, policy and administrative measures empowering institutions, officials or individuals to protect personal data.

Second, attacks on automated data systems are increasing. A data system consists of the network of communication channels used within an organisation.

When information is unlawfully accessed, the consequences have been detrimental to the life and integrity of the institution.

Yet under the e-government strategy, the Kenyan Government is encouraging citizens to use online services to facilitate service delivery.

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