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Computer Crime: Ethiopia’s New Challenge

Computer Crime: Ethiopia’s New Challenge

 

Amen Teferi  07-05-16

 

Since the commercialization of the Internet in the mid-1990s, its growth has been incredibly rapid. Some studies conducted to measure the growth of Internet had revealed that between 1994 and 1999 the number of countries connected to the Internet has increased from 83 to 226. According to these studies in December 1995 there were an estimated 16 million Internet users worldwide; by May 2002, this figure had raised to over 580 million, almost 10 per cent of the world’s total population. In the intervening years between 2002 and 2016 this figure upswing to billions of people around the globe.

 

The Internet is seen as part of the globalization process that is supposedly sweeping away old realities and certainties, creating new opportunities and challenges associated with living in a ‘shrinking’ world. We are now said to be in the midst of a ‘new industrial revolution’, one that will lead us into a new kind of society, an ‘information age’.

 

It has brought in its wake significant changes in the ways we work, trade, study, learn, play, consume, communicate and interact. At the same time, a whole host of crime problems have emerged in tandem with life online. Politicians, police, businesspeople and citizens now have a new vocabulary with which to identify such dangers: hacking, spoofing, phishing, viruses, Trojans, malware, piracy, downloading, spyware, chat room grooming, and so on.

 

Since the mid-1990s, the Internet has grown to become a fact of life for people worldwide, especially those living in the Western industrialized world. The relentless expansion of the new forms of electronic communication has transformed the spheres of business, work, consumption, leisure, and politics. And awareness of these changes have been tempered by fears that the Internet brings with it new threats and dangers to our well-being and security.

 

The creation of new crimes may be most evident in times of rapid social, political, economic, technological and cultural change, as heretofore unseen forms of human activity and interaction become possible, bringing with them (real or perceived) challenges and threats to order and well-being. The rapid development of the Internet stands as an exemplar of such change: just ten years ago it was in its infancy, yet it is now a fact of life for billions of people around the globe.

 

A decade or so on from the Internet’s first appearance in popular consciousness, we can see that the intervening years have been replete with fears about its ‘darker’, criminal dimensions. The explosion of crime and criminality related to the growth of new forms of electronic communication has attracted the attentions of many. The ‘cyberspace’ -the realm of computerized interactions and exchanges- has offered a vast range of new opportunities for criminal and deviant activities.

 

These crimes have been rapidly increasing in number and type. Up to a point, we may have the luxury to assume the new brands of crime that we are facing for some time now are insignificant.  As is often the case we tended to be rather slow to reorient our gaze to include the new threats in the category of crime. But when we reach a point where we can no more be content and continue to retain our traditional attitude by focusing upon the familiar array of crime issues: violence, public disorder, drugs, burglary, street crime, and the like, we will be forced to revisit issues that have so far been assumed as unimportant.

 

However, by appreciating the ongoing importance of these issues we would eventually develop a critical understanding of these crimes and their consequences. Then we will stop our remiss and began to extend the vision of our ‘contemporary landscapes of crime’ to include those developments arising in the cyber worlds we increasingly inhabit. Now wide ranges of issues are included in the cybercrime issues like hacking, terrorism, piracy, hate speech, fraud, child pornography, surveillance, privacy, and so on.

 

Last Saturday, INSA Director Major General Teklebirhan Woldearegay had the opportunity to expound on this issue in an interview he had with EBC. The director has affirmed that cybercrime is critical with respect to the claims often made by victims and the anticipated dangers it involves. His interview was prompted and intended to dispel misconceptions and misinformation that have come following breaking of the news about the draft proclamation on Computer Crimes.

 

The Director has clarified basic issues related with the legislative intents and purposes of the draft. He has also noted that the proclamation to govern Computer Crimes is not only internally motivated but a certain extent it can be rendered as externally induced. He had told to EBC that the draft proclamation the federal parliament had scrutinize the other week was initiated four years ago and has assumed its final shape after passing through various forum designed for consultations where different stakeholders were invited. Thus, it is logical to assume that the draft proclamation has incorporated the views and opinions of citizens or agencies that are expected to play important role in broadening and deepening the understanding of Computer Crimes.

 

The Director had recently told the parliament that Computer Crimes had posed growing threat to the national security of every nation. He also claims that terrorist groups are increasingly computer savvy and have ever greater opportunities to strike by targeting critical computer systems using electronic tools.

 

We have seen many instances of what appears to be an explosion of crime and criminality related to the growth of new forms of electronic communication.  Since the mid-1990s, the Internet has grown to become a fact of life for people worldwide. Its relentless expansion is in the process of transforming the spheres of business, work, consumption, leisure, and politics.

 

The Internet is seen as part of the globalization process that is supposedly sweeping away old realities and certainties, creating new opportunities and challenges associated with living in a ‘shrinking’ world. We are now said to be in the midst of a ‘new industrial revolution’, one that will lead us into a new kind of society, an ‘information age’ The awareness and enthusiasm to join the World Wide Web have been tempered by fears that the Internet brings with it new threats and dangers to our well-being and security.

 

‘Cyberspace’, the realm of computerized interactions and exchanges, seems to offer a vast range of new opportunities for criminal and deviant activities. A decade or so on from the Internet’s first appearance in popular consciousness, we can see that the intervening years have been replete with fears about its ‘darker’, criminal dimensions.

 

Businesses cite threats to economic performance and stability, ranging from vandalism to ‘e-fraud’ and ‘piracy’; governments talk of ‘cyber warfare’ and ‘cyber terror’, especially in the wake of the September 11 attacks; parents fear for their children’s online safety, as they are told of perverts and pedophiles stalking the Internet’s ‘chat rooms’ looking for victims; hardly a computer user exists who has not been subjected to attack by ‘viruses’ and other forms of malicious software; the defenders of democratic rights and freedoms see a threat from the state itself, convinced that the Internet furnishes a tool for surveillance and control of citizens, an electronic web with which ‘Big Brother’ can watch us all.

 

The development of the Internet and related communication technologies thus appears to present an array of new challenges to individual and collective safety, social order and stability, economic prosperity and political liberty. Our awareness of the Internet’s criminal dimensions has certainly been cultivated and heightened by empirical concerns. Therefore, Ethiopia must prepare itself to the looming security threats and dangers Computer Crimes have posed against its sovereignty and the well-being of its citizens.         

 

I would like to wrap-up this article by noting that some scholars sub-divide Computer Crimes (cybercrime). These scholars classify cybercrime into four established legal categories:

1. Cyber-trespass – crossing boundaries into other people’s property and/or causing damage, e.g. hacking, defacement, viruses.

2 Cyber-deceptions and thefts – stealing (money, property), e.g. credit card fraud, intellectual property violations (a.k.a. ‘piracy’).

3. Cyber-pornography – breaching laws on obscenity and decency.

4. Cyber-violence – doing psychological harm to, or inciting physical harm against others, thereby breaching laws relating to the protection of the person, e.g. hate speech, stalking. From the explanation I heard from the Director I have deduced that Ethiopia’s draft proclamation on Computer Crimes have concurrence with the legal categories mentioned above.

 


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