By Muthoga Kioni (Published in the EAStandard 13th August 2008)
Cyber-crime has exploded in the recent past. It has attracted criminals who are motivated by the same old vices. These are namely lust, power, revenge, greed and the desire for adventure.
These criminals are usually the rebellious, the defiant or the irresistibly curious. Cyber crime also demands a degree of technical competence that provides an intellectual challenge to some characters.
Cyber-crime, by its nature is difficult to quantify because most offences are never detected. Victims of cyber-crime also conceal these offences from legal authorities because they want to avoid embarrassment. They would also want to safeguard their reputation, especially financial institutions.
Despite the difficulty in quantifying this type of crime, it is obvious that it is progressively becoming a major global problem. There are various contributing factors. They include prevalence of opportunities, weak guardianship, ineffective legislation and extra-territorial issues. Kenyans, who are regularly online, would be well advised to take note of these factors.
The first factor is the increasing number of opportunities that are to be found in cyberspace. Crime is committed when motive and opportunity are present. As the internet progressively becomes an alternative medium of commerce it will proportionally become a lucrative medium of fraud. These opportunities will only increase as our dependence on information technology develops.
There is also weak guardianship in cyberspace. Conventional crime has over time been combated by a combination of the general public, the commercial or business sectors and law enforcement agencies. An example would be the crime of motor vehicle theft. Car owners are encouraged to lock their cars at all times and install anti-theft electronic alarms.
Insurance firms offer discounts for the implementation of these crime prevention measures. As a result guardianship of this specific crime is present and possessed by the above mentioned entities. This is not the case with cyber-crime. Citizen concern is absent, the private sector is not involved and policing the cyberspace is not possible. The resultant situation means the first line of defense in cyberspace is self defense - minding your own home.
Another contributing factor to the escalation of cyber-crime is the absence of harmonious and consistent legislation across nations. Cyberspace is global and trans-jurisdictional in nature. A Kenyan company can become a victim of a perpetrator who resides in Greenland. It is therefore important to harmonize various laws for example the law on search and seizure and the law on evidence.
Legislation must be introduced that provides for unauthorized access to a computer or computer system, destruction or alteration of data within a computer system, interference with lawful use of a computer or a computer system and theft of intangible property.
Kenya needs to develop its legislation so as to effectively protect electronic commerce. The judiciary should also permit the admissibility of electronic evidence in judicial proceedings.
Finally cyber-crime will escalate due to its global reach. This enhances the ability of an offender to commit crimes which will affect individuals in a number of other countries. This presents an inter-jurisdictional and enforcement problem. The presence of law enforcement and regulatory vacuums in various countries has therefore contributed to the growth of cyber-crime.
Kenya is at the threshold of a cyber boom. It is prudent we invest and develop our legislative framework, enforcement capacity and limit cyber-crime opportunities if we are to curtail this emerging crime.