Brigadier Nicolaas Theodorus Pieterse, section head of the Electronic Crime Unit within the Hawks, addressed those attending the Mimecast Human Firewall event in Fourways on Wednesday. In his keynote he addressed South Africa’s fight against cybercrime, including the difficulties in reporting and dealing with cybercrime in the country.

Right now, if you were to go to your local police station and report a robbery at your home you would get assistance, he said, but should you attempt to report that your online banking profile has been hacked, you’re less likely to get help.

Pieterse added there is currently a drive to train law enforcement to deal more effectively with reports of cybercrime in South Africa, especially at police stations. But this won’t happen overnight.

Not quick

“Building law enforcement takes time, and bringing trained individuals up to speed with investigations can sometimes take even longer,” said Pieterse. This process can take up to five years, and only a few individuals from a group of 50 candidates will actually make it through the recruitment process.

These problems continue in the enforcement of these laws as very few cybercrime cases ever reach a courtroom. However, Pieterse then went on to say that cases that do reach court lead to convictions, but he did not disclose numbers and instead gave an example of one such case.

Pieterse cited an operation that brought a ring of hackers that used fraudulent methods to steal R42 million as his example. The ring hacked bank accounts and managed to withdraw approximately R30 832 800 before the bank was able to take action, and while law enforcement eventually tracked down the hackers, it was only with the co-operation of international partners. This case illustrated just how woeful cybercrime law enforcement in South Africa can be, and how much still needs to be done.

Clearly, a lot of work needs to happen before cyberspace is anything other than a modern-day Wild West.

Cybercrime bill

The draft cybercrime bill that is currently open for public comment would go a long way to changing the landscape of online law enforcement, according to Pieterse. Though this might be true, the bill is quite controversial and could potentially limit more than just cyber criminals, and thus needs more careful consideration before it’s final.

It’s open for public comment until the 30th of November, so if you have an opinion on it that you feel needs to be heard, go here for details on how to communicate them.

All of this leaves us asking: with the technology landscape changing so rapidly, can laws – and law enforcement – ever truly keep up?

[Image CC by 2.0 – Perspecsys Photos]