With the increasing threat of cyber crimes to Ghana's aim of becoming the hub of the information super-highway on the west coast of Africa, Information Communication Technology (ICT) experts in the country have suggested the establishment of a well-equipped and independent national cyber crime unit to fight ICT crimes, especially cyber crimes in the country.

This national body should be given the mandate to investigate and prosecute cyber criminals as well as all ICT crimes.

This conclusion was made at the I-Week 2006 ICT workshop where creative and innovative individuals and teams of ICT origin had discussions on 'the new face of cyber crime - types and tools used' in Accra on Thursday.

The experts included C.K Bruce of Cutting Edge, Techie Mills, an ICT Consultant, and Mr. Quashie of Regent University, as well as participants from all walks of life. The discussions also called for a proper legal framework for the ICT sector. They further called for the creation of a department in the law faculty of universities in Ghana to handle crimes relating to ICT.

The discussions also centered on the fact that the government's drafted Electronic Transactions Bill intended to protect private rights of Internet users and owners' websites be facilitated, as many individuals and corporate entities are suffering from the menace of cyber criminals.

They called on the police to as a matter of urgency establish a department on cyber crime to help enforce cyber laws to the letter.

In his presentation, a lecturer from Regent University College defined cyber crime as crimes committed on the Internet using the computer as either a tool or a targeted victim. "It is very difficult to classify crimes in general into distinct groups as many crimes evolve on a daily basis," he confessed.

He said cyber crimes come in various forms; electronic theft, credit card fraud online auction fraud, pyramid fraud, fraudulent Internet banking sites, ATM fraud, phishing, cyber terrorism and lottery scam. The most prevalent cyber crime in the country is the credit card fraud.

Many Ghanaians perpetrate this type of cyber crime. The most typical example is a group in Nima, a suburb of Accra, called 'Sakawa'. This group is alleged to be selling stolen credit cards numbers as well as using same to order for products from the United States and Europe.

These scammers buy or steal credit card and verification numbers from hotel employees and cashiers of super markets, either in the country or from abroad.

This situation has dented the reputation of the country leading to the black listing of Ghana from purchasing items from some commercial sites in the United States and Europe.

"They then go online, place orders and then work in partnership with people in the USA or Europe, whose addresses they ask the illegally purchased goods to be delivered. After delivery, the goods are then sent to them in Ghana," participants revealed.

At one point, an entire container shipment of compact disks arrived in the country.

On the global scene, an Internet retailer, CD Universe, refused to pay $100,000 to a Russian hacker known as Maxim, who stole 300,000 credit card numbers from their web site. In revenge, the hacker posted some 25,000 credit card details on the web for all to see.

The second most prevalent is online auction fraud, which is the number one Internet fraud in the US. Goods often do not arrive. In one case, a Russian fraudster ordered goods using a stolen credit card, then sold them on an online auction at a low price to United States citizens, who then wired money to an untraceable Latvian bank.

At the end of 2005, the US Department of Treasury announced that cyber crime overtook drug trafficking; it cost $180 billion.

While criminal activity via the Internet is still a fairly new phenomenon, the FBI ranks it just behind stopping terrorism and counterintelligence on their list of priorities.

Switzerland's federal cyber crime police unit has reported a further increase in suspected cases of Internet abuse.They received 7,345 notifications of possible Internet abuse in 2005, 100 more per month than in previous years.

In Russia, the Department 'K' (a department fighting hi-tech crimes) revealed 4,295 crimes in the sphere of high technologies for the first 6 months of 2004. The most notorious case discovered by 'computer' investigators involved 7 hackers who stole $21m from credit card holders

Nigerian 419 scam stole the most money off Internet. Americans reported losing an all-time high of $183 million to Internet fraud in 2005, up 169 percent from $68 million in 2004.

Ghanaian Chronicle