Cyber crime, also known as computer crime, is any crime that involves a computer and a network. Cyber crime covers illegal behaviour committed by means of, or in relation to a computer system or network. Cyber crime is one of the most growing forms of transnational crime faced by the SARPCCO Member States and the world at large. While rapid growth in internet and computer technology has enabled economic and social growth, an increasing reliance on the internet has created more risks, vulnerabilities and has created new loop holes for criminal activities.
Cyber crime is one of the priority crimes for the region which comes in different forms, some of which are highlighted below:
- Card Fraud Card fraud is reported in most countries in the region. Criminals steal or clone credit and debit cards issued by banks and use them to steal from bank accounts or making online purchases.
- Identity Theft In identity theft, fraudsters access enough information about someone, (name, date of birth, current and previous addresses) to commit fraud. Victims are either alive or deceased and through identity theft, victims lose money when criminals use their names to access bank loans and credit cards.
- Fake lottery/ Inheritance These are Advance Fee Frauds where victims are asked to make an advance payment for a favour or a benefit to be derived from transaction. These scams are common and a significant number of citizens have fallen victim. For example, victims are advised that they have won a lottery or that their accounts are due to be credited with huge sums of money and are asked to make upfront payments as facilitation fees.
- Electronic Money Laundering (virtual currency) Electronic funds transfers have been used in concealing and moving proceeds of crime across jurisdictions. With the emergence and proliferation of various technologies of electronic commerce, criminals are using virtual currency to launder funds and evade tax. Of interest is the use of bitcoins, which is a new innovative payment network that uses technology to operate without the involvement of central authorities or banks. It is a form of digital currency created and held electronically, through computer software which generates virtual value from a process called Bitcoin mining where people are to solve complicated mathematical problems.
- Salami Attack; The attacks are often used in committing financial crime and are based on the idea that an alteration so insignificant would go unnoticed in a single case. For example, a bank employee inserts a programme into the bank’s servers that deducts a small amount of money (say 5 cents a month) from the account of every customer. Such unauthorised debit is likely to remain unnoticed by an account holder, because of its small size, but the criminal is able to reap huge profits from aggregate deductions from all the accounts.
The region has since realised the negative impact of actions perpetrated by cyber criminal syndicates in both security and economy of SARPCCO/SADC member states. In light of the above, two regional initiatives have been put in place:
- Inception of regional Cyber crime Course for law enforcement officers. This course is delivered once a year putting together police officers from the 16 Member States dealing with cyber crime.
- Establishment of a Regional Cyber crime Centre of Excellence in line with the INTERPOL Global Cyber crime Strategy. The centre is meant to assist member countries in terms of capacity building, investigative and operational support.