By Francis Tim Mbom
“Magistrates are key players in the fight against cyber crime in the sense that the final decisions in a criminal case rest with them…To be effective in the discharge of their duties, it is imperative for magistrates to have a good understanding of the different types of cybercrimes perpetrated in our cyberspace, their rankings in terms of prevalence, impact and associated risk, the tools and technologies used to fight these crimes…”
The words above are part of the speech of the General Manager of the National Agency For Information and Communication Technologies, ANTIC, Professor Ebot Ebot Enaw.
The words were channeled on Wednesday, August 2, in Limbe by the Regional Branch Head of ANTIC Southwest, Egbe Besong Divine.
Since 2016, the National Agency has been carrying out a fierce campaign to rid Cameroon of cyber criminals and ensure safety and security of Cameroonians who do business in cyberspace.
ANTIC knowing well that the fight can be won with the full collaboration of the judiciary, has been carrying out a nationwide programme, training Magistrates and judicial police officers with the “tools and technologies used to fight these crimes at their level.”
After having carried out the training in Yaounde, Bafoussam, Bertoua, Ebolowa, Douala, Ngaoundere and the Special Criminal Court, it was Limbe’s time on Wednesday, August 2, to host the “the eight edition of the Seminar to Raise Awareness of Law Enforcement Officers and Magistrates of the Southwest Court of Appeal.”
The Regional Branch Head went on to state that, “this annual get-together seeks to equip judiciary with basic skills needed to collect and analyse digital evidence in an effort to effectively investigate, track and prosecute cybercriminals.”
He added that the training was equally a forum for the judiciary officers to be drilled on the Cameroon ICT ecosystem with a focus on how ANTIC carry out its mission of securing the national cyberspace.
The Director in his speech presented by the Regional Branch Head went further to delineate how serious some unscrupulous Cameroonians, for the past few years, have turned the cyberspace in Cameroon into a crime center with wide ranging atrocities being committed on a near-daily basis.
“The proliferation of “fake news” and the recurrent dissemination of government’s confidential documents speaks to the gravity of the phenomenon of cyber crime in our country.”
Going by some statistics, the Regional Head said that top on the list of cyber atrocities in Cameroon was “scamming.” In effect, there are hundreds and even thousands of Cameroonians as well as foreigners that have, unfortunately, fallen victim to these unsuspecting criminals or “scammers” either through their phones or the internet.
“Scamming represented about 80 percent of cybercrime cases in 2021, with the financial losses estimated at FCFA 7 billion since 2010.”
The Regional head narrated that, “one of the most popular modus operandi used by cyber criminals is to lure a potential victim into believing that he or she is lucky winner of a contest organized by a local mobile telephone operator, and that to receive the prize, the potential victim must carried out a mobile money transfer to the alleged operator.”
There is equally the scam where these anonymous cyberspace brigands use what is called phishing. They deceive their unsuspecting victims and lure them into the trap where the victims, unknowingly and out of sympathy, transfer certain sums from their mobile money accounts to these cyber thieves. The brigands always act on the pretext that they (the brigands) mistakenly sent money into the victim’s Mobile money accounts by error and, therefore, plead with them to send it back to them. This is how most individuals have had their phones hacked or their entire money in their account swept away within a twinkle.
“Mindful of the fact that man is the weakest link in the cyber security chain coupled with the ever-changing nature of cybercrime, we are obliged to build a cyber security culture that leverages permanent awareness raising as well as continuous training of actors,” the Regional head said.
The Seminar was flagged open by the President of the Southwest Court of Appeal, Justice Paul Ngute, who represented the Minister of Justice and Keeper of the Seals, Laurent Esso.
“The Minister of State, Minister of Justice and Keeper of the Seals whom I have the distinguished honour to represent here, extends his sincere gratitude to you for this wonderful initiative, on such an important and topical issue as cybercrime,” Justice Ngute said.
The President of the Southwest Court of Appeal noted that unlike before where cybercrimes was an issue of some isolated individuals, today it has increasingly grown and become a more professionalized ring manned by well structured networks who engage in “credit card fraud, cyber espionage, identity theft, dissemination of illicit content and so on.”
He noted that with this, they, as judicial officers need constant training in order to be up to the task of checking these criminals.
In order for the seminar participants to have an impactful training, ANTIC had on its roll a series of renowned cyber experts from ANTIC and Magistrates from the Judiciary. Among them were Ms Ntoh Joan Ntoh, Mahob nee Vanina Lolita, Egbe Besong Divine, Magistrate Mbiatem Charles, Nji Amine, Kedi beh among others. The opening session was moderated by ANTIC’s Afuh Percy.