Cyber crime is the fastest growing crime in the world with millions of people being affected every day. And yet, less than half of the cyber crime instances are reported to the authorities. This means the situation is actually worse than it seems to be.
According to the 2012 Norton Cybercrime Report, one-and-a-half million victims fall prey to cyber crime daily.
Yesterday, we reported about an innocent chat on the social networking site, Facebook, followed with a request for a coffee date landed a 26-year-old woman to be kidnapped in Kampala last week. The captors held the woman for two days, demanding for a ransom of an astronomical Shs1 billion.
They asked the family to wire the money to different accounts in Japan and Tanzania. Similarly, many people have lost money due to people hacking into their bank accounts, while organisations and, even government agencies, have had their websites hacked into.
In 2006, police chiefs in East Africa said computer-related crime is the single toughest challenge facing them this millennium.
They said the new wave of crime remains a challenge to them because most of the officers are ill equipped. Investing in its control should be a priority for the government since criminals have also changed their tact of getting their victims unaware.
The government established a Computer Emergency Response Team under the Uganda Communications Commission and one of its key deliverable is monitoring online activity to identify and report high-tech crimes. But it is not yet clear how this team has performed over the last year, or whether it has even started operating.
It is disheartening that of the five countries in the East African Community, only Kenya has set up a cyber lab to investigate cyber crimes. There is no law to govern cyber crime in Uganda. It is only the existing Penal laws that may be utilised to prosecute offenders and it remains to be seen how the Electronic Transactions Act, the Electronic Signatures Act and Computer Misuse Act, will work.
There is an urgent need for sensitisation of the masses, including judges, prosecutors and law enforcement officers on how to prevent and prosecute cyber crime.
The threat of cyber crime is real and should be tackled before it gets out of hand.