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Ghana needs blue print to fight cybercrime – US Justice Dept

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cyber-crimeThe US Justice Department says Ghana needs comprehensive blue print on cybercrime and the prosecution of its perpetrators to tackle the canker as online business transaction increase.

Addressing a media roundtable discussion in Accra, Mr Thomas Duke, a Cybercrime Prosecutor of the department, observed that as businesses take advantage of the opportunities available using the internet, there would be increase in cyber-crime.

He, however, said the best way to handle the situation was to stay a step ahead of cybercrime offenders.

The press discussion heralds a US Department of State and the Government of Ghana co-hosting of the West African Cybersecurity and Cybercrime Workshop from January 29 – 31 2013.

The three-day workshop will bring together cybercrime experts from the US and the West Africa, civil society organisations, security services, policy makers and players in the telecom industry.

The workshop will focus on addressing broad issues on internet freedom, cybercrime and cyber security with emphasis on issues of specific interest to West Africa, such as mobile cellular security, computer forensics, Internet access and affordability.

Internet penetration in Ghana, according to National Communication data in Ghana has increased from 5.2 per cent in 2010 to about 10 per cent in 2011, representing an increase of about five per cent in just one.

Unlike some years back when internet access was mainly at internet cafes and big businesses, today, the story is different. Internet subscriber fees have become cheaper with the advent of telecommunications trying to outdo each other in the price race.

More importantly, almost all mobile phone users have access to internet data.

But those achievements come with challenges. According to Mr Duke, as access increased, the most important step to take was to ensure that a safe and secure environment for people using the internet.

He said there were huge potential economic and social damages that imbued with using the internet hence the need to ensure safety so that no matter the transaction people are engaged in whether online shopping, online banking or any other form of internet transaction.

A report by US payment processor, CyberSource Corp indicated that as high as 76 per cent and 58 per cent of U.S. and Canadian merchants who accept international orders online shut off orders from Nigeria and Ghana respectively in 2008 with fraud, particularly in international e-commerce as being the major concern.

Reported cyber fraud comes in different forms.  In the business-related scam, the perpetrator manages to contact the either through mass-mailing or through a lead. The victim is promised an incredibly profitable return on his investment (usually shady and dubious).

The popular baits include gold, diamond, lottery and the sometimes abandoned money that the client can help recover. Whatever, the bait, the true bait is the promise of instant wealth for the victim.

These are well shaped plans with explanations that checkout and fake documents that sometimes originate from genuine sources such as the Office of the President, Attorney Generals Department and respectable banks. At times a duplicate website is designed which may look similar to a legitimate one or will redirect to a legitimate one when visited.

Whatever be the case, the success of this modus operandi is basically ignorance or greed on the part of the victim. In the worst case scenario, the victim is lured to a location and physically attacked and robbed… or even killed.

Another one is the use of credit cards.  Scammers usually buy or steal credit card details from hospitality workers in Ghana or abroad, and go online to order goods, which are shipped to accomplices in Europe or the US. These goods are then shipped to Ghana.

As a result of this Ghana and Nigeria particularly have been blacklisted by a number of e-commerce websites worldwide.

Currently the key international conventions that seek to harmonise national cybersecurity laws is the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime which has been ratified by 30 countries including the US and many European states since it came into force in 2004.

In Africa, apart from South Africa which has signed onto to the convention but yet to ratify it, Senegal is also taking steps to join the league of countries that have consented to the treaty, also aimed at harmonising  law and foster co-operation in areas including computer-aided fraud, hacking, distribution of child abuse images and copyright infringement.

In that regard, Mr Duke stated that in the long term, governments globally would have to make cybercrime security a priority.

“Eventually we’ll see less and less crime overall. It takes time, money and efforts but many governments and businesses are yet to make the protection of their citizens and customers priority,” he stated.

According to him, if the perception continued that internet transactions were unsafe, Ghana could lose out on the opportunities that came with the internet.

On regional cooperation, Mr Duke observed that while such cooperation was important, it did not shield countries from cybercrime.

Source: Daily Graphic

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