In a move welcomed by the local IT security sector South Africa has taken a definitive stand against Internet crime. It recently joined 29 other countries to sign an international treaty, which - once ratified - will hopefully go a long way towards curtailing burgeoning security problems.
The Council of Europe's 'Convention on Cybercrime', signed by 30 countries on 23 November, is an international treaty designed to harmonise laws and penalties for crimes committed via the Internet. It will require all these countries to introduce comprehensive local legislation, together with technical infrastructure, to fight everything from hacking to computer fraud.
"The treaty is significant, and we must applaud our foreign ministry for joining hands with the rest of the world to fight cybercrime," says Gary Middleton, national security business development manager at Dimension Data SA. "This country has been singularly lacking in legislation in this area, and I am delighted to see that we are taking a real stand on the issue."
The treaty, which puts forward definitions, as well as suggested penalties, for hacking, copyright infringement, computer-related fraud and child pornography, will go into force when ratified by five member states. The EU hopes to complete the ratification process by 30 June 2003.
"There has been some criticism of the treaty, with concerns voiced about invasion of privacy and/or civil liberty," says Middleton. "However, the Council of Europe has stressed that the treaty has been drafted with respect for individual rights. Anything that will curb the predicted dramatic upswing in viruses, hacking and computer fraud in the future is to be welcomed."
Other nations to sign the treaty include Albania, Armenia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Moldova, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, 'the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia', Ukraine, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.