Cybercrime legislation to tackle identity theft, child pornography

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A stakeholder consultation on the draft Cybercrime Legislation was held today at the Hotel Pegasus in Kingston,Georgetown. The consultation drew the attendance of Charge d’Affaires of the United States Embassy in Guyana Bryan Hunt, Inter-American Bank Representative Ms. Sophie Makonnen, Minister of Legal Affairs & Attorney General Basil Williams, along with representatives from the media fraternity, the private and public sectors.

Other agencies represented include the State Asset Recovery Unit (SARU), the Guyana Revenue Authority, the Guyana Office for Investment (GO-Invest) and the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU).

The serious offences which the draft bill criminalises speak to child pornography and the damaging of any computer system, device, network, computer programme or data vital to the State’s operations.

Other offences which are criminalised include: illegally accessing a computer system, illegally intercepting by technical means information on a server or a computer system, illegally interfering with data on a computer such as deleting or copying information, illegally obtaining computer data, illegally interfering with a computer system, the sale of device, software or computers that can be used for hacking purposes, the unauthorized receiving or granting of access to  information stored on a computer or a network, computer related forgery and, fraud and identity theft.

U.S. Embassy’s Charge d’Affaires Bryan Hunt, who delivered remarks at the opening ceremony, indicated that critical infrastructure continues to be at risk from threats in cyberspace and a country’s economy is harmed by theft of intellectual property.

“I firmly believe that if we address these threats systematically and together, we can ensure that the internet remains an engine for economic growth and a platform for the free exchange of ideas,” Hunt said.

He added that the aspect of the legislation to address the threats of identity theft, cyber bullying and child pornography is needed because if left unchecked these can undermine the social fabric of the country.

“Unfortunately the child pornography market exploded in the 1990s with the advent of the internet and advanced digital technology…the legislation under review…takes aim at those people engaged in this despicable, unlawful behavior”. Protecting children and other vulnerable members of society is one of the most important duties that today’s leaders assume. Hunt explained.

IDB Representative Sophie Makonnen said that based on a recently published report by the IDB, Guyana’s internet threat level stands at 37%.

She further indicated that 80 percent of the countries in Latin American and Caribbean region do not have cybercrime strategies; only five of the 33 do and they are; Columbia, Panama, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Uruguay.

“We believe that the report is a wakeup call in the region to what’s going on…the vast majority of the countries in the region is not yet prepared to counteract cybercrime” Makonnen explained.

She added that today’s consultation, while it is a work in progress, is a clear indication that the government is taking the threat of cybercrime seriously therefore the bank will stand by its side.

Minister Williams explained that while the emergence of ICT has changed the way we bank, shop, conduct business, and generally conduct ourselves on a day to day basis, it has led to the emergence of cybercrime

“The lack of cybercrime legislation may  result in Guyana becoming a safe haven  for cybercrime offenders as offenders may be motivated to commit such crimes in other jurisdiction because they will have no fear of  prosecution,” Minister Williams explained.

Some of the types of institutions that are affected by such crimes include, government agencies, banks, educational institutions, and businesses.

cyber“They include data espionage or illegal interception of data which allows criminals to gain access to critical personal and confidential information and the breach of such information can have deep impacts on the operations of such institutions,” Minister Williams explained.

The fight against cybercrime needs a comprehensive approach therefore the creation of legislation is the first step as it criminalises such offences and provides the necessary measures for investigation which will lead to prosecution.

The 2016 budget makes allocations for cybercrime legislation, training  investigators, prosecutors, magistrates and judges to understand the nature of these emerging crimes.

Some of the concerns raised at today’s consultation exercise include: The loss of money as a result of cyber theft at banks and other financial institutions; The need for regulations that obligate institutions to follow certain guidelines that protect customers should their systems be hacked and, Whether penalties should be provided for institutions that hold customers vital personal information. (GINA)

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