Legal Eagle : A war against cybercrimes

March 20, 2017

By no stretch of the imagination could any one believe that those who conceptualised and developed the computer system could imagine it becoming a very potent weapon that could kill millions and cause massive destruction.

By way of background, the word 'computer' was first used in 1613 to describe a human who performed extraordinary calculations or computations. Charles Babbage, who conceptualised what is regarded as the first computer in 1822, must be spinning in his grave to know that an invention he pioneered and which was continued by Konrad Zuse and Alan Turning in 1936, Tommy Flowers in 1943, Atanasoff and Berry and, thereafter, Eckert and Mauchly in the mid-1940s, to 1975 when Ed Roberts introduced the first personal computer, has been wreaking so much havoc.

Now, cybercrime is here and the world is bracing to deal with cyberwarfare.

The Cybercrimes Act, 2010, [hereinafter called 'the Act'], is an Act "to provide criminal sanctions for the misuse of computer system or data and the abuse of electronic means of completing transactions and to facilitate the investigation and prosecution of cybercrimes".

Notwithstanding the promulgation of the Act in 2010, two years later, the Jamaican Government reported a 14 per cent increase in cybercrimes.

Under the Act, computer is defined as any device or group of related devices, which, when programmed, performs automatic processing of data and includes data-storage facility, among other things.




Offences under the Act include, but are not limited to unauthorised access to computer or data, accessing a computer with intention to commit or facilitate the commission of a crime, unauthorised modification of computer program or data, unauthorised interception of computer function or service, unauthorised obstruction of operation of computer, unlawful making available devices or data for commission of offence, offences relating to a protected computer and offences by bodies corporate. If found guilty, the penalty for the offences mentioned above are usually a fine of up to $2,000,000 and/or imprisonment up to five years.

Cyberwarfare is generally actions between countries. It involves the use and targeting of computers and networks. It may involve both offensive and defensive operations pertaining to the threat of cyber-attacks, espionage and sabotage. For instance, espionage could lead to hacking and public disclosure of national security details and trade secrets, among other things.

Sabotage is likely to involve the disruptions of computers and satellite systems that are likely to affect electricity power grid and water supplies, and air, ground and rail transportation. In modern societies and large cities, these disruptions could lead to mayhem, death and public disorder.

Computer warfare is evolving almost at the speed of light. Nation states are now busily establishing cyber command centres that can train personnel to monitor cyberspace and use cyber weapons to defend their interest in cyberspace or attack when necessary.

Fast-forward 100 years, maybe there will be a world where people in every household will have training in cybercrimes and cyberwarfare to use defensive and offensive tools, in the same way we use a firearms in the world today, but for now, as "I think to myself ... bright blessed day ... dark sacred night ... what a wonderful world." Louis Armstrong.

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