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Opinion - Cybercrimes investigation: A conundrum faced by police

2022-09-26  Staff Reporter

Opinion - Cybercrimes investigation: A conundrum faced by police

With the evolving of new technological appliances, most if not everything may become prone to cyber-attacks. Mabrouk (2020) stated that cybercrimes started in the 1820s, if it is believed the computer existed since 3500 BC in India, China and Japan. 

The problems of cybercrimes are still incessantly growing in the world. Technological adoption continues to rise as well, with mobile device ownership growing exponentially, social media use increasing, and the Internet of Things (IoT) quickly becoming a reality. The growth of cybercrimes is by no means just an African problem. In fact, in 2021, the total global direct cost of cybercrimes reached an estimated U$213 billion. The investigation of crimes is one of the most vital functions of the criminal justice system (police). 

Despite these being important functions, today the Namibian Police Force as a criminal justice system component is faced with multiple challenges, especially in investigating and affording the prosecution of cybercriminals. The investigations of cybercrimes are complex and require proper guiding principles as well as well-crafted legislation. The profit motive appears to be the first and major incentive that makes cybercriminals to pursue their nefarious activities of infiltration or unauthorised interference with computers and network systems. The criminological theories can, however, not be divorced from the commission of these types of crimes in Namibia. Some of the cybercrimes that are believed to be prevalent in Namibia range from hacking, cyber-bullying, embezzlement, browsing, masquerading and impersonation.



The investigations of cybercrimes are just like any other crimes, with these ones being more computer-related. It is thus of paramount importance that cybercrime investigators possess knowledge in the use and handling of computers. Nashidengo (2020) postulated that the cybercrime unit of the Namibian Police Force comprises investigators who have no background knowledge of computers. Thus, many a times when they are conducting their investigations, they do so without knowing which information is crucial to the investigation, and which ones are not. This prolongs the investigation process, and brings about a waste of resources on an investigation that will not make up a prima facie case at the end of the day. Furthermore, the investigation of cybercrimes requires more funds and resources than any other crime investigation. This is because cybercrimes are not detected as early as possible for possible leads to be followed. Also, they occupy more jurisdictions in the manner that the perpetrator can be in Nigeria and the victims in Namibia and South Africa. This, therefore, requires investigators to co-operate with external jurisdictions’ police forces/services to gather sufficient evidence, because they find themselves not having jurisdictional powers in some areas where the crime has extended to. Also, tracing technological leads that have been tampered with already by expert perpetrators requires the police to hire computer experts from external private institutions, which is more costly. Another challenge facing the Namibian Police Force in the investigation of cybercrimes is the absence or lack of computer forensics. Computer forensics is the study of computer technology as it relates to the law, with an objective to learn more about the possible suspects. This is the fastest way to identify a cybercriminal, and its absence thus also prolongs the investigation process and the prosecution. 


External jurisdiction

In 2015, the South African Police Service designed a policy towards digital security, cybercrime and cybercrime prevention. Among other vital aspects, this policy provides for the initiation of police courses that will educate investigators under the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations on cybercrime. The Cybercrimes Act, Act 19/ 2020 is an act of the South African parliament which set out the penalties and gave powers to police officers to investigate cybercrimes. In addition, India has established a cybercrimes reporting mechanism, a system that involves registering complaints with the local police stations or cybercrime cells. Botswana also took a stiffer stand in dealing with cybercrimes. Cybercrime and computer-related Act, Act 18 /2018, gives power to the police to take strict measures against the perpetrators of cybercrimes.


My plea

Cybercrimes have taken over the world. It is thus prudent that governments take issues of cybercrimes a condition sine qua non that needs urgent intervention. Properly enacted legislation will serve as a body of authority for police investigators to curtail and put to a stop the continuation of these reprehensible crimes. The government should, however, emulate how other countries tackle the issues of cybercrimes because if left unabated, it will have a serious effect on public safety as well as on the national security of the country.

2022-09-26  Staff Reporter

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