The Increased Need for Cybersecurity in Developing Countries: COVID-19 and the Adverse Cybercrime Risks Imposed

The Increased Need for Cybersecurity in Developing Countries: COVID-19 and the Adverse Cybercrime Risks Imposed

Lere Thuto Dingalo
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-8693-8.ch011
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With the coronavirus pandemic (SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19) having such an immense impact on the world, a global reliance on communication through ICTs and digital formats has been forced. This means that more people are forced to use technologies for activities that they otherwise would not (i.e., banking), thusly increasing the traffic on cyberspace and advancing the risk of people being victims to cybercriminals. This is particularly problematic for developing countries due to their lack of institutional and legal frameworks to combat cybercrime as well as a lack of education and awareness of the dangers that are present in the cyberspace or how to combat them, a lack of training in governmental institutions to detect and deter such crimes and the lack of cooperation between the public and private sectors. The need for cybersecurity in developing countries, with the current pandemic particularly, is therefore at an all-time high.
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The Historical Element Of Cybercrime

To fully comprehend the prominence of cybercrime in the world today, it is pivotal that we understand what this type of crime is and how it came into being. It is important to state from the onset that cybercrime is often referred to in varying descriptions, with some referring to it as “computer crime”, others as “computer-related crime” and in some instances as “digital crime” or “electronic crime”. Although there are discrepancies between the various definitions, they are minute.

This chapter acknowledges this, however, for the sake of consistency within the chapter, it will readily refer to it under the umbrella of cybercrime. Although some references to these other descriptions will be made.

Cybercrime can narrowly be defined as criminal activities conducted in the cyberspace using internet technology (IT) (Curtis, et al., 2009). It can further be categorized into two. Firstly, as crimes that involve unauthorized access to data and systems for criminality or criminal activity, and secondly, as crimes that involve fraud, falsification, diversion of money, obtaining illicit material, or defamation using online services (Curtis, et al., 2009).

The United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders on the other hand developed two more definitions. The first is a narrower definition, and it describes “computer crime” as any illegal behavior by way of electronic operations that target the security of computer systems and the data processed by them, whereas the second, more broad definition describes “computer-related crimes” as any illegal conduct that is committed by means of, or in relation to, a computer system or network. This includes crimes such as unauthorized possession and distribution of information by means of a computer system or network (Gercke, 2014).

Cybercrime has been an occurrence since the inception of IT more than 60 odd years ago. In the 1960s there was an introduction of transistor-based computer-based systems and these led to an increase in the use of computer technology (Gercke, 2014). In this early time of cybercrime, they focused on physical damage and stored data. For example, in 1969 there was an incident in Canada where there was a student riot which resulted in a fire that affected computer data hosted at the university, and sometime in the mid-1960s, there was a debate in the United States of America (USA) on whether creating a central data-storage authority for all ministries was necessary, this resulted in discussions on the criminal abuse of databases and related risks to privacy ensuing (Gercke, 2014).

The 1970s saw an increase in the use of computer systems. This is widely associated with the fall in prices making computers more widely available for use within administrations, businesses, and the public (Gercke, 2014). This era also saw a shift in the forms of crimes being committed, from more traditional property-based crimes on computer systems to the illegal use and manipulation of computer systems (i.e., computer-related fraud). This form of fraud was a real challenge, and it became more and more prevalent as law enforcement agencies began to investigate more and more cases, and the application of existing legislation in computer crimes led to difficulties (Gercke, 2014). This is a problem that developing countries find themselves continuing to face today. More on this will be discussed in detail below.

The 1980s and 1990s saw an increase in cybercrimes and more specifically the emergence of software piracy. During this era, computer systems became more interconnected and networks enabled perpetrators to infiltrate computer systems without being present at the crime scene. This allowed offenders to distribute malicious software through these networks and more and more viruses were being discovered (Gercke, 2014). This inevitably led to the emergence of a large scale of transnational cybercrimes.

Information grew at such a rapid pace that controlling it became almost impossible and information legally available in one country was accessible globally, even in countries where publication of that material was criminalized.

While computer crimes were generally localized crimes, the internet turned these crimes into transnational crimes requiring the international community to pay closer attention (Gercke, 2014).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Computer System: A set of integrated devices that input, output, process and store data and information.

Cybersecurity: The optimal state where users can function securely and achieve their goals in the cyberspace domain by effectively managing risks posed by multidimensional threats.

Developing Countries: Sovereign states with less developed industrial base and low human development index relative to other countries.

Cybercriminal: A person who engages in criminal activity by means of the internet.

Cyberspace: Virtual world created by links between computers, internet embedded devices, servers, routers, and other components of the internet’s infrastructure.

Cybercrime: Criminal activities conducted in cyberspace.

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