Tuesday, 19 January 2016

SumVoices: Cybercrime in Algeria - Phenomenon on the Rise

Our last installment of SumVoices featured Fahad Desmukh, journalist and digital human rights activist with Bytes for All, Pakistan. This month we bring you an anonymous contributor from Algeria, in English and Arabic (above).

Algeria, SumVoices, cybercrime, SumRando Cybersecurity, VPN, Secure Messenger, Web ProxyThe progress recorded in the field of information and communication technology in recent years has imposed a new space for the exchange of digital information in which all types of transactions and electronic services are conducted.

The digital revolution has led most countries of the world to react and to commission regulatory measures pertaining to computer usage. To address cybercrime, specific legislation has been adopted.

When technology enables crime, laws must adopt adequate control mechanisms to protect internet end users. Algeria has taken the initiative to make a law that regulates and supervises this kind of crime. It has adopted a law that addresses specific rules on the protection, prevention and the fight against all forms of offenses related to information and communications technology. The National People’s Assembly and the Council of the Nation implemented this law on 5 August 2009.

Many questions come to mind when we see what is happening around us, the small and large computer crimes we hear about every day. What has been done in Algeria regarding this sector apart from this small piece of legislation that does not cover all aspects of cybercrime?

Many countries often struggle to be effective against cybercrime, strengthen their IT security, and protect internet users. This is also the case in Algeria where government is much less concerned about developing web security.

In this time when territorial conquest battles are currently running on the net, Algeria acts like it is not concerned. In fact, Algeria is not very connected to the net, with only 27.8% of the population having access, according to the Internet World Stats website. The e-Algeria strategy that aims to connect companies, homes, schools, etc. is still in its infancy. 3G has been commissioned and the country still waits to be introduced to 4G. Several Algerian companies are currently disconnected; invoices, pay slips and purchase orders have not dematerialized. Electronic commerce does not exist, same with electronic payments. However, this does not prevent Algeria's inclusion on the list of most vulnerable countries in the field of cybersecurity.

In the MENA region, some regulation has been created nationally; however, as we all know, the internet has no borders. International regulation and cooperation is necessary to successfully tackle the threat and be a serious counter party against international cybercrime.

The Algerian cyber law, which includes 19 articles and 6 chapters, provides in Chapter 2 the possibility of recourse to the surveillance of electronic communications for preventive purposes, in accordance with rules set by the Criminal Procedure Code and this Act subject to legal provisions guaranteeing the confidentiality of correspondence and communications. This text worries some, as it grants unprecedented power to the state. It permits the state to spy and hack websites that it deems in breach of its vague cybercrime definition. In addition, articles 3, 4 and 7 give the power to the state to eavesdrop and censor internet and detail cases when it is required. Article 5 grants the state the power to remotely hack and spy computer systems if required by a judge. Articles 10 and 11 require “internet providers” to store all communication and identifying information for a minimum of a year. Articles 13 and 14 introduce a new body for combating cybercrime, but the text of the law is not clear as to the nature of this body. This whole law is in clear breach of several citizen rights as given in the constitution, including article 36, which explicitly grants freedom of expression, and article 39, which explicitly grants the right to privacy.

These monitoring operations prescribed by Article 4 may be made to prevent such offenses designated terrorist or subversive acts and offenses against state security, and when there is information about a possible attack on an IT system representing a threat to public order, national defense, state institutions, or the national economy, as well as in connection with the execution of requests for international judicial assistance.

These surveillance operations can’t be performed, according to this law, except with written authorization by the competent judicial authority. In the case related to offenses of terrorist or subversive acts and offenses against state security, authorization is issued by the Public Prosecutor at the Court of Algiers to the judicial police officers within the body National prevention and Fight against Crime related to information and communications technology (ICT), for a period of 6 months renewable.

Therefore, Algerian civil society should mobilize and raise its voice to collaborate with the news body to ensure that there are no violations of freedom and human rights under the pretext of the fight against terrorism or cybercrime.

Parents, children and adolescents, public and private institutions, and citizens in general are concerned about the dangers posed by the misuse of the internet without caution.  Algeria is far behind in this area compared to other African or Arab countries.

More than 300 cases related to cybercrime were resolved in 2015, showing that cybercrime is gaining ground in Algeria. The largest percentage of cybercrime cases recorded by the police concerned the use of pictures of children for pornography, defamation, and business identity theft. Other cases that are concerning deal with piracy of electronic sites – including those of state institutions – blackmail cases, and also cases of the violation of privacy. According to these exceedances, victims of cyberattacks are usually public and private administrations, foreign companies, and individuals. The data are unreliable since the culture is hesitant to file complaints as victims of cybercrime because people don’t know about it or they are ashamed they have been defamed.

Take steps to protect yourself online. Start by downloading SumRando VPN.


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