The advent of the worldwide web and information communication technologies brought about many changes – good and bad.
The dark side is cyber crime.
Whilst to many, this might sound like a foreign phenomenon, it could be that many people in Zimbabwe have been victims of this crime without knowing.
Cyber crime, simply put, is a crime in which a computer device (including mobile phones) and the Internet are the tools with used to breach the law.
Cyber crime also includes traditional crimes conducted through the Internet. For example, hate crimes, fraud, identity theft, fraud and pornography.
It can also be referred to as computer crime and is a huge threat to any nation’s security and financial health.
The most common types of cyber crime are hacking, copyright infringement and child pornography.
Mr Chris Musonza, a managing consultant at CNM Technologies, says cyber crime is very real and it is high time Zimbabweans know of it and how not to fall prey to it.
“Everyone who uses the Internet or a computer device, even a mobile phone, can be a victim of cyber crime, if they have not fallen prey already,” says Mr Musonza.
With the growth in technology uptake in developing countries, the risk of cyber crime is very high, warns Mr Musonza.
Recent statistics from the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe show a mobile penetration rate of over 90 percent and internet penetration rate of close to 50 percent.
Introduction and growth in use of ICTs is usually accompanied by an increase in cyber criminal activities.
Most ICTs users in developing countries are first-time users who are not aware of the existence of cyber crime.
To make matters worse, developing countries often do not have capacity to fight cyber crime, Mr Musonza says.
“Developing countries like Zimbabwe do not even have the basic statutory instruments to combat cyber crime and our law enforcement agencies lack technology and skills to handle cyber issues with some police stations still using typewriters,” Mr Musonza adds.
A cyber crime epidemic is silently creeping into Zimbabwe as criminals turn on our increasing dependence on electronic gadgets and the Internet.
Some of the most common instances of the criminal activity in Zimbabwe include mobile money fraud, piracy (music, video and software), revenge pornography and cyber bullying, to mention but a few.
“The potential for harm is severe for not only business, but for unsuspecting ordinary citizens as well,” says Mr Musonza. We have been engaging authorities including the Ministry of ICTs on the need for legislation that deals with cyber crime whilst on the other hand protecting the rights and freedoms of citizens.”Potraz deals with such crimes and helps in crafting statutes to combat them. Potraz has acknowledged the existence and dangers of cyber crime in Zimbabwe and is helping to inform businesses and the general populace to be aware of the criminals prowling the worldwide web.
Potraz also works closely with the Zimbabwe Republic Police and helps in related investigations.
Cyber criminal law in Zimbabwe is provided for mainly in Chapter VIII of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act (Chapter 9:23) of 2004.
This whole chapter (Sections 162-168 of the Code) provide for computer-related crimes (often collectively described as cyber crime).
Other statutes providing for cyber crime-related offences are the Interception of Communications Act (Chapter 11:20) and the Postal and Telecommunications Act (Chapter 12:05).
Potraz has worked in consultation with the Ministry of Information and Communication Technologies to come up with a bill specifically dealing with cyber crime. It is yet to be passed.
Mr Musonza says “we know the Government is working on a number of bills that are intended to combat various forms of cyber crime and we are advocating for the democratisation of the process and also protection of the citizens digital rights.
“Currently we are also doing a number of round-table, public meetings and conferences on various aspects of cyber crime so as to complement the efforts of Government in trying to educate people”.