Crime of any kind is frightening, irritating and frustrating, but computer crime in South Africa might be one of the most underhand forms with criminals that are hardest to catch.
There are many types of computer crime, divided broadly into the following three categories:
- internet crime
There is a varied range of crime involving computer hardware. Some businesses try to sell off cheap, low quality computer parts under well-known brand names. This works in the following way. Companies will buy inexpensive parts from cheaper providers and put them together within a name brand casing. Buyers are then fooled into paying high prices for low quality machines. This is just one of many different forms of hardware crimes in the computer world.
A major form of computer crime involving software is piracy. For almost every software programme on the market there is a pirated copy available from the criminal who copied it, or online for free. Pirated software includes operating systems like Windows, games like Tomb Raider, software suites like Microsoft Office and many, many others. This form of computer crime makes many normal people into criminals. Knowingly using pirated software is a crime.
There are many different types of computer crimes in this category including but not limited to the following:
- Downloading of pirated music and video
It is very easy to create a site where others can access and download pirated material without getting caught yourself. Many people do this and there is a huge amount of pirated music and video available online which most people use without a second thought. South Africa has one of the highest numbers of pirated material in the world.
Cyber criminals are known to hack into people’s personal accounts. A common way of doing this is by phishing for your user information. They do this by creating fake webpages that emulate your regular login page and then store that information and use it on the real webpage. With accounts like Facebook and Twitter this can be frustrating, but with more serious ones like bank accounts, this can be devastating. They can steal money without your knowledge and tracing them can be very difficult.
- Fraud and conmen
Meeting people online has become a way of life for most people in today’s world. However, some criminals take advantage of the lack of face to face interaction to con internet users out of money or into situations where they could be assaulted or molested. There are cases of criminals pretending to be something they are not to gain the trust and friendship of lonely internet users searching for friendship or love. Once they have the trust of the victim, they either convince them to meet in person and then take advantage of them or they con them into ‘lending’ them money, which of course the victim never sees again.
- Cyber bullying
There are many cases, mostly with older children or teenagers, of bullying online. It is more difficult to bully someone face to face as there are generally teachers, prefects, parents and other buffers to put a stop to it. Teenagers all over the world have faced the problem of online bullying by a group of classmates. There are instances where it has got so bad that the victim has committed suicide. Because of how easy it is to insult, swear at and humiliate others in chat rooms and on social media, there has been a huge increase in online bullying. This extends to hate speech in many forms which is particularly hurtful in South Africa.
To sum, computer crime in South Africa is an incredibly wide and varied subject. There are many forms and ways in which computer crime takes place and many different types of criminals and victims. It is important to know what is legal and illegal and important to know YOUR rights.