September 26, 2016

No provisions for cybertheft at financial institutions

As the Legal Affairs Ministry hosted another stakeholders consultation on the Draft Cybercrime Bill 2016, it was revealed


A section of the gathering at the consultation session on the Cybercrime Bill 2016

that the piece of legislation does not contain any provisions for cyber theft from financial institutions such as banks.

The Bill, which is already published in the official gazette but is yet to be debated in the National Assembly, seeks to introduce a series of cybercrime offences and penalties – an area where Guyana has been lagging behind.

Wednesday’s consultation session ran for about two hours during which stakeholders made queries, raised concerns and even made recommendations on the drafted legislation. Among the concerns outlined was the need for regulations to be established that would protect customers of financial institutions in the event of cyber theft, whereby customers’ monies are stolen.

In addressing this matter, parliamentary Counsel Vonetta Atwell-Singh, explained that even though no clause was included in the Bill, this particular scenario was considered during the drafting of the legislation. She noted that the policies used in the United States were considered.

“For example, if a credit card fraud is committed and money is lost (in the US), the bank will investigate and they will repay some of it. But we have not inserted a clause in this legislation to look at that,” Atwell-Singh stated.

Nevertheless, the parliamentary Counsel, invited submissions on the matter, noting that it could be further examined.

Another concern highlighted by stakeholders was the lack of provisions for victims of identity theft. Stakeholders were more so concerned about what procedures are in place to monitor whether such institutions take adequate steps or follow necessary procedures to protect customers. It was also pointed out that institutions in possession of customers’ personal information should be liable to penalties if that data is leaked as a result of hacking.

On the other hand, journalist Enrico Woolford questioned whether the draft legislation, specifically the section of persons violating the rights of others via the Internet, covers the work of the media. He explained that media operatives would often access personal information on individuals via computer-based communication sources and disseminate it to the public.

Under the section titled ‘Harassment utilising a computer system’ it states that “a person who intentionally or recklessly: (a) uses a computer to disseminate any information, statement or image; and (b) exposes the private affairs of another person, subjecting that person to public ridicule, contempt, hatred or embarrassment”. The prescribed penalty for this offence is a maximum fine of $5 million and/or three years imprisonment on summary conviction, and $10 million five and/or five years imprisonment.

Woolford, an Executive member of the Guyana Press Association (GPA), asked if the media exposes the private affairs of another person that leads to negative outcomes mentioned in the legislation, whether media operatives would be subject to face the penalties. He noted that this is particularly important since there is no press freedom legislation to protect the local media fraternity, in except for the constitutional right to freedom of expression.

In response, Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Basil Williams, pointed out in such cases criminal liability plays a key factor. He added that even in civil libel matters, justification of the fact must be established. The Minister noted that issue of malice will also have to be taken into consideration.

“If someone publishes an article about you, your defence is whether it’s true; or justification appears as a matter of public interest… There must be a clear substantive of the facts and a clear criticism of the substantive facts,” he posited.

The second round of consultation saw the attendance of members of diplomatic corps, members of the legal fraternity, parliamentary staffers, officials of the State Asset Recovery Unit (SARU), the Guyana Revenue Authority’s (GRA) Legal Department and the Guyana Office for Investment (GO-Invest).

Addressing the gathering, Minister Williams pointed out that while technology has changed every facet of human lives for the better, it has, however, led to the emergence of cybercrime.

“The creation of cybercrime legislation is the first step in our battle against cybercrimes. The legislation is essential to criminalise cybercrimes and provide for the investigative and procedural measures that could enable law enforcement to prosecute offenders,” he stated.

On the other hand, US Chargé d’ Affaires Bryan Hunt outlined that the piece of legislation under consultation will address many of today’s greatest cybersecurity threats such as identity theft, cyberbullying, and child pornography.

The US Diplomat pledged his Government’s support to Guyana in efforts to enhance its cybersecurity, noting that if left unattended, these scourges can undermines the social fabric of the nation.

Meanwhile, Country Representative of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) explained that even though Guyana’s Internet penetration is at a mere 37 per cent, it does not lessen its risked against cyber threats.

In fact, she noted that a recent United Nations (UN) report reveals that some 80 per cent of the Latin America and the Caribbean regions are not protected against cybercrimes.

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