South African debate on tackling cyber-crime heats up

News by Edgar Rwakenya

South Africa is encouraging input into its national Cyber Crimes and Cyber Security bill designed to tackle soaring cyber-crime in the country.

South Africa's Internet Service Providers' Association (ISPA) has prepared ISP industry input to the proposed bill aimed at effectively fighting the soaring cyber-crime rate in the country, said Dominic Cull, regulatory advisor at the association.

The association, which comprises of 178 internet service provider members, plans to submit its proposals with expectations of them being included in the bill before it can be passed into law by parliament, explained Dominic Cull in a telephonic interview with SCMediaUK.

According to ISPA, information sharing is an important tool to secure the ICT sector and the association is also concerned with budgetary allocation, capacity and expertise shortcomings at the country's regulator. 

“Securing a network that can be accessed by hackers anywhere in the world is a moving target that depends on regularly updated information. Unfortunately, there is a silence amongst ISPs and large corporates in the interests of protecting reputations,” Cull said. 

He also admitted that South Africa's local networks are constantly attacked by hackers who attempt to steal valuable financial information or revenues.

The national Cyber Crimes and Cyber Security bill, which is yet to be passed by the South Africa parliament before being implemented, is expected to criminalise unlawful access and interception of personal and financial data and prescribe penalties related to cyber-crimes.

However the bill has been criticised by several civil rights organisations who say that it gives government too much power and that it will end up violating basic human rights regarding privacy and freedom of speech in the country.

“We expect government to withdraw that cyber-security bill, on the grounds that it gives government too much powers and it is very complex with far-reaching implications,” according to Mark Weinberg the coordinator of the ‘Right to know' organisation.

The bill is also expected to give police powers to investigate and gain access to or seize items in relation to cyber-crimes and it imposes various obligations on electronic communications service providers in respect to cyber-security in the country, Cull explained.

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