Cabinet has approved the introduction of the wildly criticised Cyber Crimes and Cyber Security Bill (Cyber Security Bill).
Government decided to introduce the Bill after growing criticism regarding the lack of decisive policy and control over cyber crime.
Last year, the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development invited the public to comment on the revisions of the Cyber Security Bill. The new legislation gives South African courts the jurisdiction to try cyber-related offences.
However, the Bill, drawn up as a reaction to increasing cyber crime, received backlash from those who say it threatens the fundamental democratic spirit of the Internet.
Law firm Michalsons previously noted the Bill gives the South African Police Service and the State Security Agency extensive powers to investigate, search, access and seize anything (such as a computer, database or network) wherever it might be located, provided they have a search warrant.
According to government, the Cyber Security Bill aims to give SA a co-ordinated approach to cyber security.
In a statement, Cabinet says the Cyber Security Bill strengthens the criminal justice system as envisaged in the National Development Plan (NDP), by combating cyber crime, establishing capacity to deal with cyber security and protecting critical information infrastructures.
“It contributes towards building safer communities as envisaged in the NDP. In this regard, government is committed to put in place measures to build confidence and trust in the secure use of ICT.”
The Bill creates about 50 new offences related to data, messages, computers and networks. An example of a new offence would be if someone is using personal or financial information to commit an offence like hacking, unlawful interception of data, as well as computer-related forgery and uttering, extortion or terrorist activity.
Penalties for committing an offence can range from one year to 25 years in prison, or a fine of R1 million to R25 million.
The minister of state security David Mahlobo previously expressed the significance of the Bill in creating a secure, dependable and reliable cyber environment.
SA loses up to a billion rand annually due to cyber crime, according to Mahlobo.