Long arm of the law reaches
Cyberspace with all its wonders, social interaction and cutting-edge technologies can also be a treacherous place for unsuspecting users. A new Act aims to provide more protection by defining what a cybercrime is and giving authorities the basis to prosecute offenders.
The Cybercrimes Act was signed into law by President Cyril Ramaphosa on 26 May and promises to be the key to get cybercriminals behind bars.
Prof Pieter du Toit of the Faculty of Law says the new Act creates specific offences that the current legal framework does not adequately address. He says the existing investigative procedures do not provide for specialised procedures to investigate cybercrimes.
The new Act is aimed at enabling South African law enforcers to identify, investigate and successfully prosecute these types of criminality, he says.
Disarming cyber criminals
The Act specifically focuses on crimes perpetrated in cyberspace with the use of computer technology.
“It creates offences such as unlawful access to and interference with computer systems and data storage systems, as well as the unlawful acquisition of passwords,” says Pieter.
“The Act also adapts common law crimes such as fraud and forgery to better suit the cyber environment. Furthermore, it criminalises the use of social media to spread or create malicious messages or posts that incite violence or cause harm.”
It will also be a criminal offence to use software and hardware tools in order to commit cyber offences.
Another interesting aspect of the Act is that it obligates internet service providers to provide information to the police if they become aware of a cybercrime.
He says although President Cyril Ramaphosa signed the Bill into law, the Act will only be implemented on a later date that will be promulgated in the Government Gazette.
Prof Pieter du Toit of the Faculty of Law says the new Cybercrimes Act specifically focuses on crimes perpetrated in cyberspace with the use of computer technology.
PIRACY AND THE ACT
AND THE ACT
An interesting aspect of the Cybercrimes Act is that it makes reference to the theft of incorporeal (intangible) property.
Dr Pieter du Toit says many legal experts are of the opinion that this includes internet piracy such as the illegal downloading and distribution of movies, music and other copyrighted material.
“In my view the Act was not intended to address the issue of copyright infringement and it will not be possible to equate downloading with theft. The issue of piracy rather calls for amendments to copyright legislation.”
To learn more about the Cybercrimes Act or to read the Act, visit
Cybercrimes Act 19 of 2020
South African Government (www.gov.za).
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