“Cyber. It is the inevitable prefix that currently defines our world. From people’s privacy to inter-state relations, the term ‘cyber’ dominates the headlines and discussions – so much so that we risk being paralyzed by the magnitude of the problems we face. Online exploitation and abuse of boys and girls; the black cyber markets for the purchase and sale of illicit drugs and firearms; ransomware attacks and human traffickers making use of social networks to attract victims. The unprecedented scope of cybercrime is crossing borders in our homes, schools, businesses, hospitals, and other vital service providers” – Yury Fedotov (Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime)
What is a Cyber-Crime
Cybercrime is a criminal activity such as fraud, theft, trafficking in child pornography and intellectual property, stealing identities or violating privacy. A cybercrime is generally defined as a computer crime due to the fact that a computer is used as an instrument/weapon to advance or further illegal ends such as the above-named criminal activities.
Malawi enacted its cybercrime–related legislation in 2016 through the Electronic Transactions and Cybersecurity Act (ETCSA). The ETCSA provides for the establishment of the Malawi Computer Emergency Response Team, the formation and validation of electronic transactions, the liability of online intermediaries and content editors and protection of online users, electronic commerce, security and digital economy, data protection and privacy, domain name management, and lastly electronic government transactions.
Some of the best Practices and Principles in Cybercrime Legislation
- Harmonization is whereby countries make their laws similar by eliminating differences and inconsistencies between them. It implies the creation of common standards among countries aiming at ensuring “harmony”. Therefore, it is good practice for cybercrimes to be harmonized between nations.
- Principle of offline/online consistency
- This principle calls for uniformity between offline (real-world crimes) and online criminality. For instance, if sexual harassment in the real world is criminalized then the same conduct should also be criminal if performed in the online world. This principle extends to the applicable punishment of the crime.
- Respect for fundamental rights and freedoms
- Countering cybercrime should not come at the expense of the fundamental rights of citizens. Cybercrime poses a real threat to people’s human rights and efforts to make legislation for it need to protect these human rights rather than infringe on them. There are legitimate fears that securing the internet may lead to undermining individual privacy and other fundamental liberties. Respect for human rights is one of the main principles of the constitution of Malawi. Most cybercrimes violate human rights and freedoms. By punishing such conduct, the ETCSA is effectively protecting the rights affected by these offenses.
Tips to protect yourself from cybercrimes
- Use a full-service internet security suite
- Use strong passwords.
- Keep your software updated
- Keep an eye on the children
- Think before you click. More than 90% of successful cyber-attacks start with a phishing email
- Always remember that cybercrimes are criminalized in Malawi. If you feel you have been attacked in any way do not hesitate to report your matter to the authorities.
by Aaliyah Hamdani Legal Intern