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Concerted strategies needed to fight cybercrimes:

AG lauds Sri Lankan IT laws

"The fight against cybercrimes calls for concerted strategies" said Attorney General Mohan Pieris, President's Counsel in his keynote address at the international workshop on Co-operation against Cybercrime in South Asia, held in Colombo recently.

The event was hosted jointly by the Council of Europe and the ICT Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) in association with the Ministry of Justice. The participants consisting of government and law enforcement representatives from South Asian countries - Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, came together to enhance their capacity for cooperating against cybercrime.

The workshop provided an opportunity to assess cybercrime and IT related legislation of the countries concerned.

The AG commended ICTA for its "contributions towards recent IT related legislation, particularly, the Electronic Transactions Act No. 19 of 2006 and the Computer Crimes Act No. 24 of 2007.

Whilst the Electronic Transactions Act provides an excellent framework legalising e-commerce, e-business and e-governance with a unique evidence regime for the admissibility of electronic documents in courts, the Computer Crimes Act provides the safeguards against cybercrime. Both these legislation and consequential policy changes make Sri Lanka e-ready to march towards e-governance".

The AG's address took participants through a legal journey traversing many countries, including the Philippines, Russia, USA, UK as well as Hungary, which has now become famous for the Budapest Cybercrime Convention adopted in 2001.

The AG said, "Given the ubiquitous nature of the Internet and its ability to swiftly and effectively transcend national borders and sovereign territories, we today live and transact business in a borderless world".

Emphasising the importance of mutual co-operation in fighting against cybercrime, the AG said, "It is axiomatic that criminal activity involving the use of computers has come to stay.

As such this is an area where global co-operation and mutual assistance must be fostered and promoted.

There is sensitivity internationally that practical efforts must be made to protect us from cybercrime and it is in this backdrop that I find it quite opportune that this all important international workshop on co-operation against cybercrime in South Asia should take place in Sri Lanka".

He elaborated on a "story told and re-told many a time about the brief but destructive career of the infamous 'Love Bug' virus, which would illustrate the stupendous challenges cybercrimes pose to us today. The virus, which destroyed files and stole passwords, appeared in Hong Kong some years back and rapidly spread around the world.

Virus experts traced the 'Love Bug' to the Philippines.

Using information supplied by an Internet Service Provider, agents from Philippine's National Bureau of Investigation and from the FBI identified individuals suspected of creating and disseminating the 'Love Bug', but then they ran into problems with their investigations.

The Philippines had no cybercrime laws. As such, creating and disseminating a virus was not a crime known to the Philippines law. Consequently, the investigators had a difficult time convincing a magistrate to issue a warrant to search the suspect's apartment.

Obtaining the warrant took days, allowing the suspect ample time to destroy essential evidence.

Authorities finally executed the warrant and seized evidence, indicating that Onel de Guzman, a former computer science student, was the person responsible for creating and disseminating the 'Love Bug'. But, because Philippine law did not criminalise hacking or the distribution of viruses, officials struggled to prosecute Guzman.

 

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