Expert Insight

The Use of Information and Communications Technologies for Criminal Purposes Lawyer . Dr. Mohammad Nasser Mohammad Al Otaibi

Information and communications technologies have witnessed a recent and revolutionary development triggering changes in a human behavior across different economic, political, and scientific areas. Information technology makes it possible for individuals to establish business relationships more quickly and without geographical barriers, thereby they go beyond the countries’ territories and sovereignties, oceans, and continents. Commercial contracts, buying and selling transactions and transportation are made in less than a second and without using paper and toner.

The paper mail embodies the clearest example for the development that has been brought about by information technology. A researcher who traces the evolution of messages will conclude that they were primitively delivered within several months. In more recent history, i.e., 100 years ago, the delivery of messages from Australia to the United Kingdom was taking months. When the flying and air transport age started and boomed, the paper mail was taking days from/to United Kingdom. Nowadays, the mail (email) is delivered within less than a second! No need for flight or vessels.

While such revolutionary development has improved our life, it gives rise to legal challenges in terms of achieving justice. I, therefore, argue that they are serious challenges that bring threats to trade, security, and social peace. It, also, requires the States to cooperate in their pursuit of justice, and no time nor space is available for any State to have a negative attitude towards information technology risks.

Since the man is the dominant or user of information technology and controls the virtual world, it is understandably that the human phenomena move from the real world to the virtual world, in particular the phenomenon of crimes.

The core of this article discusses here another aspect and challenge of justice in this virtual world, i.e., the information technology-related crimes of various types including fraud, blackmail or threats or other crimes.

 As such, we have to pose the following questions: How do we make sure that the victim will be obtaining the justice and that perpetrator will not escape punishment? Whether the States are truly prepared to cooperate, particularly, in these are cross-borders crimes?

We might find the answer of this questions with the United Nations (UN), being an international organization that is primarily concerned with the international relationships including human rights, international trade and international peace as well as the cooperation of States in countering crimes of all kinds, in particular, cross-borders crimes.

Reviewing the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly, in which it passed its resolution no. 3/187, entitled “Countering the use of information and communications technologies for criminal purposes”. In this resolution, the General Assembly requested the Secretary-General to seek the views of Member States on the challenges that they faced and to present a report based on those views for consideration by the General Assembly at its seventy-fourth session.

In response to the invitation, the Member States provided their views, which we will brief them including the real challenges they faced in countering the use of information and communications technologies for criminal purposes as follows:

  1. Low levels of awareness among the population and in organizations. An essential aspect of the fight against crime is that related to prevention. In cybercrime, prevention is directly linked to awareness-raising, among people and organizations, about the risks and threats that the use of information and communications technologies entails.

  2. The States are in need for the understanding and promoting confidence among them on exchange the technical expertise to minimize cybercrime challenges that are complex and evolving. Addressing these challenges requires constant attention and the guidance and advice of technical cybercrime experts.

  3. Difficulties in regularly updating the domestic regulatory framework of the States in relation to technological progress. Keeping the criminal regulatory framework up to date, in terms of both substance and procedure, entails many difficulties, which are more serious in countries with codified legal systems.

  4. International judicial cooperation on disclosure of data for example, the consent of the person with the lawful authority to disclose the data was provided or the information was publicly available. Restrictions that go beyond these circumstances, including by requiring the consent of State authorities, pose significant challenges to cybercrime investigation and prosecution. Traditional international legal cooperation mechanisms, such as mutual legal assistance, struggle to keep up with demand, causing delays to cybercrime investigations.

  5. Difficulties in collection of digital evidence are the greatest challenge to criminal prosecution. Difficulties for cross-border access to digital evidence. The main difficulty encountered in most cases is that the data that constitute evidence are located in a jurisdiction different from the one in which the criminal proceeding is carried out and, in almost all cases, are in the possession of private companies.

  6. Responsibility of the private sector in the use of information technology. The private sector plays a fundamental role in relation to the challenges posed by cybercrime. The responsibility of companies involves aspects such as the control and management of data vulnerabilities presented by platforms and devices and the use of social networks for criminal purposes.

  7. The judicial agencies when prosecuting cybercriminals encounter challenges in accessing and obtaining to effectively pursue cybercrime investigations and prosecutions. Data was once commonly stored onshore and available under legal procedures and judicial approvals. Currently, owing to rising global connectivity and reliance on cloud computing, data are distributed over different services, providers, locations, and jurisdictions. The data can be difficult to locate and are only obtainable through complex and slow international legal cooperation processes.

  8. Increasing risks. The profusion of the use of relatively low-cost “smart” devices that allow access to the Internet without a minimum level of security increases the grounds for potential attacks and the scope of cybercrime. To address this challenge requires complementary State policies and corporate strategies with respect to data encryption and restoration.

  9. Making sure that no safe havens exist for cybercriminals and increasing the capacities of law enforcement and judiciary authorities for effective investigations, prosecutions, and convictions of cybercriminals.

  10. Proposing preventive measures to reduce these crimes, for example the user and the service provider identification and authentication.

  11. Support the establishment of an open, secure, stable, accessible, and peaceful cyberspace in which international law, including respect of human rights, in particular, the confidentiality of his private correspondences and the guarantee of the freedom of expression, was applicable.

  12. The constant challenge of adapting to new technologies, in particular, cryptocurrencies, which are only partially regulated, leading to major risks of the anonymization of financial flows, the darknet and money laundering offences. This includes the darknet and for creating online markets for stolen data.

  13. Development of technical capabilities or capacities necessary to conduct digital investigations, including a provision of staff with proficient information and communications technology skills, or training personnel of such crimes-related judicial agencies and to equip them with suitable computing and investigative forensic tools.

  14. Formulating unified and disciplined legal definitions of such crimes to be accepted by most States, to promote confidence in international cooperation and to avoid any variation that may raise between States in the future on these definitions.

In view of the foregoing, we would also like to point out that the above points are not the thoughts or ideas of the author. They, rather, are the official and authenticated views of different States, which are provided to the UN Secretary-General. These points answer our above questions on the scale of challenges and risks that these State face due to the use of technology for criminal purposes.

In conclusion, in view of these revolutionary changes in our life, which are triggered by information technology, the effective international cooperation becomes inescapable requirement to protect international trade and human relations among the earth’s population, to achieve justice, to protect human rights and to prosecute the criminals. This would prevent bringing the rights and funds of individuals and companies throughout each territory and State into the edge of chaos.

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