Cybercrime Bill Signed Into Law – What This Means

The Cybercrime Bill was signed into law by the South African President, meaning that it is now an Act that the Parliament recognizes. Having the Bill turned into law has some implications, and in this article, we will help you understand what it all means.

The Cybercrime Bill Act 19 of 2020 was officially signed by the President, and it will come into force on the date that the Government Gazette proclaims. The Bill came about because of another Bill, which is the Old Bill. The Old Bill also focused on cybercrime and cybersecurity. However, it faced criticism as it gave the government extensive powers that others deemed to violate their right to freedom of expression. Due to the changes in clauses that were made to be Old Bill, it was renamed the Cybercrime Bill. There was a need for this Act as there was a rise in Cybercrime, and the Act aims to ensure that people are safe from criminals and terrorists. This Act will further promote the country’s security.

Some of the cyber crimes that are included in the Cybercrime Bill include:

  • Unlawful access consists of any intentional and illegal access to a computer program, data, or computer system. This unlawful access is also known as hacking.
  • Unlawful interception of data refers to the acquisition, capturing, viewing and copying of data that is not of public nature with the assistance of hardware or software tools.
  • Using hardware and software tools for unlawful acts – part of this includes the intentional and illegal possession and use of software and hardware tools in the commission of Cybercrime.
  • Cyber fraud – this refers to fraud committed using a computer program, data, and interference with data or computer system.
  • Cyber forgery- which includes creating fake computer programs or fake data that will be used to defraud.
  • Cyber uttering- this includes sharing false computer programs or fake data with the intention to defraud.
  • Malicious communications- this includes distributing data messages intending to create damage to property, violence against others, threatening another person or a group of people.

Under the Cybercrime Act, Cybercrime offenders will either be imprisoned for five to ten years or will have to pay fines. Those with aggravated offences, however, can be imprisoned for up to 15 years. Violations such as cyber fraud, cyber uttering, and cyber forgery under the Bill provide penalties that guilty parties will face. Of these cybercrimes under the court of law, offenders will have to face a penalty in line with Section 76 of the law Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977. Some of the penalties that people are found guilty can expect include imprisonment, a fine, or declaration as a habitual criminal.

Under the Cybercrime Bill, law enforcement has the necessary powers to be able to investigate, access, search and seize any articles such as computers, networks or databases. The Act is not only limited to individuals, but businesses such as financial institutions and electronic communication service providers also have the responsibility to report specific offences within 72 hours. They should additionally preserve the evidence that relates to the commission of Cybercrime. If they fail to report these offences and are found guilty of this crime, they could be fined up to R50 000.

Businesses that fall victim to Cybercrime, such as an employee committing Cybercrime; will have to cooperate and assist the law enforcement officials in the investigations that will be conducted. They will have to follow the conditions of the search warrants and comply with the directions that are offered by the court in line with computer systems involved in the Cybercrime. Businesses should also ensure that they preserve any evidence or data that will be relevant in the cybercrime investigation.

The only issue now is when the Bill will be implemented, as that is essentially the final step of the process. The Cybercrime Bill is also connected to another Act which is the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA), 2003, concerned with data privacy. In order to tackle Cybercrime without any legal challenges, then it is necessary that there is a balance between security, personal freedom and privacy.

Find out more about The Growth of Cybercrime in Africa and How Businesses Can Stay Safe.

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