The Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Bill expands on the original sections of the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act 2002 (ECTA). The creation of 20 new cybercrime offences illustrates the extent to which technology is being used for unlawful purposes and the need to protect yourself in your activities online.
Existing cyber crimes
There are currently only three cybercrime offences in the ECTA:
- unauthorised access to, interception of or interference with data;
- computer-related extortion, fraud and forgery; and
- attempting and assisting others to commit the above offences.
Penalties on conviction include fines (of unspecified amounts) and imprisonment of up to 12 months or five years, depending on the severity of the offence.
New proposed cyber crimes
The Bill gives further detail to the ECTA offences and criminalises activities relating to:
- use of personal and financial information to commit offences (for example, identity theft);
- use of hardware, software and computer systems to commit offences (for example, the various dark net sites from which illegal activities are conducted);
- prohibited financial transactions (for example, phishing);
- hacking (for example, gaining unauthorised access to a system to steal credit card information);
- possession and distribution of malware (for example, sending viruses attached to fraudulent emails);
- terrorism, espionage, extortion and appropriation (for example, the Ashley Madison hackers threatened to release sensitive information unless the site was shut down);
- hate speech, discrimination and violence (for example, posting unlawful content on social media); and
- infringement of copyright (for example, re-posting someone else’s article on your blog without permission or acknowledgement).
Attempting, assisting, inciting or procuring any of the above is also an offence, as well as harbouring or concealing any person who commits an offence.
Penalties on conviction include fines of up to ZAR 5 or 10 million and imprisonment of up to five or 10 years, depending on the severity of the offence. Offences against the state carry penalties of up to 25 years’ imprisonment.
The offences are not technology-specific and should therefore remain relevant in our ever-changing technological environment.