Trends in Cybercrime: The Dark Side of the Internet

The internet has been with us since 1994 and has been one of the fastest-growing areas of technical infrastructure and this digitization trend will continue. It is now entering a new phase called “The Internet of Things” where almost everything will be linked together through embedded systems. The emergence of the Internet has fundamentally changed the way we work, play and communicate.  Today, Internet technology is being

Internet-based communication and phone services are growing faster than landline communications.

Even though criminal behavior has been with us since the foundations of society, the advent of the Internet has given rise to a new form of criminal behavior called cybercrime. It isgenerally referred toas any criminal act dealing with computers and computer networks.

Cybercrime has been classified into three broad categories. The first category is crime against individuals (i.e., the person or his/her property). Examples of crime against individuals or individual property are cyber-stalking, email harassment, email spoofing, cyber defamation, computer vandalism, virus transmission, identity theft, internet time theft, among others.

The second category is crime against organizations (such as companies, corporations, or government establishment). Examples of crime against organizations are distribution of pirated software, possession of unauthorized information, and cyber terrorism against the government or governmental organizations.

The third category is crime against society at large. Examples of such crime are child pornography, financial crimes, sale of illegal articles, online gambling, among others.

In addition to the above, there are a host of Internet-related crime that may not fall under the above broad categories. Among them are telemarketing,web jacking, credit card account theft, spam, intellectual property theft, sale of illegal substances, and a host of others.

How do we combat cybercrime. Fact is, there is no easy solution to this national challenge. This is because most of the existing laws are unenforceable against cybercrime. Thus, law enforcers have to use their discretion in prosecuting such crimes.This calls for legislation to fight cyber crime. For example, the Indian parliament passed the Information Technology Act in 2000 to control the affairs of the cyberworld. The Ghanaian Parliament should, as a matter of urgency consider the passage of a Cyber Crime Act to deal with the three categories of cyber crime, that is, crime against individuals, organizations, and society. There should be sufficient public debate to enable various segments of the society express their opinion before the enactment of the final act. This will ensure that the legislation captures almost all criminal acts falling under the umbrella of cyber crime.

It is said that an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure. There is the need to take certain precaution when using the internet. SaileshkumarZarkar, an IT consultant to the Mumbai Police Cyber crime Cell has outlined what has generally come to be known as the 5P mantra for online security-Precaution, Prevention, Protection, Preservation and Perseverance.

Tough socioeconomic conditions create the right environment for “sakawa” to thrive. When people are ideal and have no jobs, they are more likely to engage in risky-gainful ventures like “sakawa”. One solution then is to create jobs and opportunities for people, especially the youth, to enable them climb the social ladder through socially approved methods.

The human mind has unfathomable capacity.When it is not engaged in productive ventures, it has the capacity to wander and be created in undesired direction.  “Sakawa”, could be arrested if the skills and talents of the perpetrators arechanneled  in the right direction. There is the need to set up incubation centres where young men and women with brilliant ideas can develop a project and be paid for their project. If the projects were patented and funded by international bodies including the UNESCO and World Bank, such youths who went into cyber fraud because of money could be helped to desist from those nefarious activities.

All the major law enforcement units in the count-the Bureau of National Investigation (BNI), the Police, the Criminal Investigation Department, etc. should establish cyber crime units. In addition to this, there is the need to establish cyber crime cells in all major cities who’ll work directly with law enforcement. There should be a conscious effort to equip the identified organizations with the right training and technical tools to enable them fight cyber crime in a coordinated manner. For example, all of them could share a centralized database on cyber crime to enhance their work.

The need to mount a public education campaign geared toward educating the general population about cyber crime and its impact on society is desired.  It is a well known fact that people in the hospitality industry, the postal services, and the money transfer organizations collaborate with the so called “sakawa boys.” Public education should target those falling in the above categories.

Cyber crime is a global challenge. Thus, international collaboration is needed to deal with the problem.

While these suggestions will not guarantee the elimination of cyber crime, it will go a long way to reduce its impact in the country and improve upon Ghana’s poor ranking in the cyber world.

Dr. Osei Darkwa, President

Ghana Telecom University College

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