SA’s Cybercrimes Act will change how you use the internet
Computer circuit board with glowing red skull

As of December 2021, South Africa’s new Cybercrimes Act came into effect. The implementation of this Act is happening in stages, with some sections already in place. Six months after President Cyril Ramaphosa signed the Cybercrimes Bill, we see the introduction of the new Act which is designed to reduce and prevent cybercrime in South Africa. 

Cybercrime affects thousands of people each month, with hundreds of millions of threats affecting South Africans each year. As internet use grows, the need for regulating criminal activity has pushed countries all over the world to pass laws aimed at decriminalising digital misconduct. The first international treaty on internet-based crimes was drafted by the Council of Europe in 2001. Two decades later, this treaty was used as a guideline for developing the South African legislation. 

The growing incidence of digital crime has sparked a worldwide move towards strengthening criminal justice and regulatory practices. The Protection of Personal Information (POPI) Act came into effect in South Africa recently, paving the way for further regulation of digital environments. Due to the POPI Act, businesses have had to implement measures to ensure compliance, while individuals have learned about their rights in terms of how their personal information can be processed and stored. 

At WonderNet, we are curious about how this new Cybercrimes Act will affect internet users, both individuals and businesses. More importantly, many are wondering how the Act will affect their internet experience and what the implications are for businesses. 

What is SA’s Cybercrimes Act?

The main purpose of South Africa’s Cybercrimes Act is to regulate cyberspace, making malicious communication illegal, as well as helping law enforcement authorities protect South African citizens against cybercrime. Prior to the act, it was difficult for victims of cybercrime to seek justice and for the South African Police Service (SAPS) to investigate online criminal activity. 

The new Act encompasses various types of criminal activity, including identity theft, scamming and account hacking. It also includes unlawful access to computer systems and the interception of data. Cyber fraud, the forging of digital signatures and extortion are within the scope of the new law, making it illegal for someone to use your personal data against you. 

With the rise of incorporeal property, such as NFTs and cryptocurrencies, this new law helps to protect these non-physical assets. The use of computer programs, data storage systems, software and hardware are now regulated under this Act. 

How does SA’s Cybercrimes Act affect internet users?

For the casual internet user who just goes online to post pictures of sunsets and delicious meals, this new Act probably won’t affect their daily lives very much. But internet users do need to be aware of how they communicate online, like Whatsapp and Telegram messages that contain threats or incite violent actions are now punishable by law. 

These include messages that incite property damage or violence. The KwaZulu-Natal riots and looting that took place in the middle of 2021 were largely orchestrated on social media platforms, so this Act is a positive step toward criminalising such digitally-based campaigns.

Apart from illegal online activity, the Act also makes it illegal to steal passwords and access codes for devices. Jealous lovers need to be careful, as accessing someone’s phone without their consent is now considered a criminal act. The sharing of intimate images or videos without consent can lead to prosecution. Thankfully, children no longer have to put up with cyberbullying as there are real courses of action that can be taken against online intimidation and threats of violence. 

How does the Cybercrimes Act affect companies?

Private companies and financial institutions need to make sure they comply with the new Act, otherwise, they could be held liable for criminal activity. Companies need to process data in accordance with the Act and ensure there is no unlawful possession of data. It is illegal to access personal information without consent – here we see an overlap with the POPI Act. It is also illegal for companies to be in possession of software or hardware tools that are used to commit cybercrimes. 

Companies need to preserve evidence of criminal activities and report offences to the police within 72 hours. This is particularly relevant for social media companies, who are required to help law enforcement authorities with their investigations and to provide information to courts. Non-compliance with these stipulations can lead to a fine of R50 000. 

What do I need to know about SA’s new Cybercrimes Act? 

While the majority of the act is in now effect, there are a couple of sections that are not yet in place. The Act outlines the need for a special SAPS office to support the proceedings and investigations into cybercrime, something which has yet to be implemented. Another area that still needs to be put in place is protection orders for someone who has fallen victim to malicious communication. However, the sections of the act that are already in effect show a major transition towards regulating cyberspace. 

The new Cybercrimes Act affects both individuals and organisations and gives SAPS the power to investigate digital crimes. Global cyber security is starting to have better regulation, giving internet users the right to safety online. 

At WonderNet, we want to make internet users aware of their rights, so that victims of cybercrime can take action. So the next time you get a message which says “Pay your rent or I’ll slash your tires,” you don’t have to just quiver in fear and run to the hills. For more information about our fibre offerings or to get a quote for an internet upgrade, please contact us today or check if we’re connected to your address.

WonderNet brings affordable broadband internet to South African homes. We work alongside leading fibre network providers to maximise our reach and to offer fast, reliable and secure internet connectivity to your home. We are owned by SEACOM; one of Africa’s top information and communications technology (ICT) companies with an expansive network of subsea cables, landlines and fibre connections. WonderNet strives to offer the best customer service in the country. We will go above and beyond to ensure that our customers are satisfied with their internet access.

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