Friday, May 11, 2007
Coastweek (http://www.coastweek.com/3018-16.htm) reports that on one fateful night in April 2007, a gang of nefarious robbers broke into the Pastoral Centre Offices of the AIDS, Population, and Health Integrated Assistance Program (Aphia II) in Tudor, Mombasa.
They broke into the main office and stole 20 computers which were carted away in a pick up. The greater loss, according to the report, was the vital data stored in the computers in favour of HIV/AIDS patients in the Coast Province. As a despondent Catholic Archbishop of Mombasa, Boniface Lele, put it "this is hitting the poorest of the poor in the Coast".
In the recent past we have read of similar thefts from ministry, parastatal and corporate offices, especially in Nairobi. The security provided to such premises is questionable to say the least. That is, however, not our concern at this point. What can be safely concluded is that the physical theft of computers and peripherals has been on a steady increase over the past few years.
As more and more Kenyans join the national grid (especially in the rural areas) we shall see the rate of computer crime sky-rocket. This increase will be ignited by the demand for computers which will have outstripped the supply. The ‘black-market’ will only be too willing to remedy this anomaly. Some time back it used to be the bicycle, then the radio and the TV, the car followed and now the computer has become the commodity of choice for these ‘wajambazi’. Nowadays after gaining unlawful entry into your home, these fellows will scream 'nugu...wapi pesa, wapi pesa'. In the not too distant future it will be 'nugu...wapi gomputa, gomputa iko wapi'.
It is worth noting that our police force is woefully unprepared to deal with computer crime, be it in the physical or digital context. It is a common practice for law enforcement agencies in various countries to concentrate on certain 'notorious' crime genres, such as homicide, sex offences, fraud, kidnapping and bank robberies. These ‘notorious’ crimes usually warrant special resources, specialization and attention. They are classified under ‘serious crimes’.
Certain crimes are peculiar to certain regions (if I may paraphrase Mark Joseph). In Kenya we have our car-jackings and land clashes. You will note that though our nefarious robbers have previously been slow in embracing diversification, they have now obviously seen a growth area in computer crime.
Computer and Cyber crime has gained in notoriety in most advanced countries to the extent that it currently falls under the 'serious crime' category. In response many countries have established High Tech Crime Units or Cyber Crime Divisions which are now considered essential elements of any national police force. Countries that have operational computer/cyber crime units include - USA, UK, India, Australia, China and South Africa, among others.
Kenya Police needs a visible and effective High Tech Crime Unit to counter computer crime in Kenya. This unit would be charged with sensitizing computer owners and users on measures to take so as to secure their computers and data. Backup plans, insurance, serial number listing and other measures should be coordinated by this unit not to mention the obvious investigation, apprehension and policy formulation.
Computer crime cannot, and should not, be dealt with in a vacuum where the local IT industry does not know what is happening or where stealing a computer is equated to stealing a Sanyo radio.
Information/Data is a valuable resource and if we are to anchor ICT to our national development plans, then it is only sensible that we organize ourselves and ensure these ICT resources are protected by a professionally equipped law enforcement agency.