CAIRO: Security officials, social researchers and communication technology experts met Monday to discuss the implications of internet-related crime and the potential for introducing new laws to curb it.
The National Center for Social and Criminal Research brought together experts to discuss the impact of the expansion of the information technology sector on money-related crimes, pornographic sites as well as the dissemination of messages that incite violence and immorality.
Internet use, by adults and minors alike, has rocketed in recent years, and with it there has been a growth in online financial dealings. In addition, attention is increasingly focused on sites that might have a negative effect on children and teenagers. Hacking and information thefts have also spread.
Experts have pointed out that Egyptian current laws aren’t sufficient deterrents and don’t exhaust internet crime in its entirety, and have asked for more stringent and targeted laws to fill the gaps.
The problem, which investigators regularly face, is the difficulty of tracking down electronic evidence that is easily dismissed, hidden or trashed.
Another problem noted in the discussions was the difficulty of finding the computers used in the crime.
The attendees agreed that the issue requires the cooperation of all concerned parties, including law-enforcement authorities as well as telecommunication companies and social researchers.
Yet, as delegates noted, in increase in internet security could mean that the privacy of internet users may be infringed. Email is subject to surveillance by the authorities, but there are insufficient guidelines or laws to ensure that such intrusions not over-used.
Balancing such concerns, was the observation that police and other investigators are often working against the clock. Those who wait for the correct authority to be granted may risk losing the evidence they seek.
The conference also touched on the international nature of internet-based crime, with activities in Egypt often linked to a wider criminal network abroad. In which case, new legislation would be required in Egypt to tackle crimes committed abroad or with the complicity of foreign partners.
Legislators stressed that a special body employing IT specialists as well as legal experts with knowledge of the field should be created to outline the crimes and find the best approach to designing and introducing related laws.
But the legal dimension is just one part of the picture, the participants agreed. As the internet crime rate goes up, the family, school and sociologists will have a role to play. Awareness campaigns are needed to protect people, particularly those most vulnerable, from unscrupulous elements lurking along the internet highway.