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Online bullying a major cyber-crime

By Andre Bagoo Saturday, June 14 2014

click on pic to zoom in
National Security Minister Gary Griffith...
National Security Minister Gary Griffith...

CYBER-crimes such as cyber-bullying are on the rise, Minister of National Security Gary Griffith said as he unveiled legislation to tackle a range of cyber offences yesterday.

Piloting the Cybercrime Bill, 2014 and The Trinidad and Tobago Cyber Security Agency Bill, 2014, Griffith also appeared to make a link between cyber offences and the receipt of information in political mailboxes, saying the days of such practices would be over.

Griffith told MP s at the House of Representatives that reports from the police’s Cybercrime Unit showed cyber-crime was rising.

“We have witnessed an increase in a number of cyber-incidents including online bullying, attempted domain hijacking and website hacking and defacement,” Griffith said. He cited the April 2012 hacking into the Ministry of Finance and Parliament websites, as well as the July 2012 Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) skimming scams.

“Well-hidden cameras were used by thieves to capture the personal identification numbers for some customers’ debit and credit cards from a few major banking institutions,” he said. “Regionally, in March 2013 Barbados’ government network was hacked and prior to that in April 2012 LIME Barbados’ broadband network came under a denial of service attack.”

Griffith said the country remained vulnerable to cyber attacks due to the integral role of computers.

“These vulnerabilities are not external to us,” Senator Griffith said. “In Trinidad and Tobago, the following areas are among the many areas that are susceptible to compromise by criminal or terrorist elements: online banking and financial networks; online Government services such as TTBizLink; real-time information systems, such as the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems that manage the pumping stations at the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) and the Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission (TTEC).”

Griffith also said key oil, gas and petrochemical infrastructure and equipment related to air transport and public ground transportation were also vulnerable.

“Despite the benefits to be derived from the digital revolution, it is incumbent on us to implement strategies that address the risks associated with Internet use with a focus particularly on our vulnerable in the society such as our children,” he said. In relation to cyber-bullying the bill proposes a new offence.

Clause 21 seeks to create the offence of “harassment through the use of electronic means with the intent to cause emotional distress for both adults and minors.”

“This Clause seeks to treat with harassment, cyber-bullying, damage to reputation and extortion via the use of a computer system,” Griffith said. According to the Minister’s notes the offence would carry a fine of $100,000 and three years’ imprisonment on Summary Conviction or a fine of $250,000 and five years’ imprisonment on conviction on indictment, however, it was unclear if these details of the provision would be subject later to amendment on the Parliament floor.

Other offences proposed include: the unauthorised receipt or grant of access to computer data stored in a computer system; computer-related forgery; computer-related fraud; identity theft; violating a person’s privacy through voyerism; and sending multiple electronic mail messages that do harm.

Griffith said under the law the use of data obtained illegally would be controlled.

“Gone are the days of mailbox politics,” he said, in relation to without elaborating further. “Now you need to know where you got the date from.”

The Minister of National Security warned that failure to have laws in place will make this jurisdiction a cyber-crime haven, whereby hackers would be able to evade lawful process.

“The failure to criminalise certain cyber-crimes might protect offenders or even motivate them to move illegal activities from countries where there are offences related to cybercrimes to those countries where there is none,” he said. “Preventing the formation of safe havens where criminals are able to operate with impunity has therefore become a key challenge in preventing cybercrime; and reciprocity and mutuality in criminalising certain acts have become a necessity; as wherever safe havens exist, there is the real danger that offenders will use them to evade investigation and prosecution. Those countries which have failed to enact adequate legislation, risk the possibility of exposing their populace to a myriad of crimes without recourse.” Griffith noted cyber-crime had no borders.

“A cybercrime can happen in Trinidad and Tobago and the perpetrator can be a Russian citizen living in Ukraine,” Griffith said. “Mr Speaker this is the reality we face. How do we prosecute these persons when our laws are not the same as those in Ukraine or we have no laws at all?”

The Minister of National Security continued, “With a growing dependence on the availability of networks and computer systems, as well as the growing number of Internet users, crimes committed by using information technology will become more frequent and potentially more severe. In order to protect user’s countries must have the ability to act when those services are attacked or abused in other ways.”

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