Cyber Law in Saudi Arabia
Cybercrime refers to an illegal act that criminals carry out using computers and the internet via web defacement, hacking, fraud, scams, copyright infringement, as well as service denial attacks. Cyber laws in the Middle East face different types of cybercrimes that include hackers, computer viruses, cyber stalking, phishing, information ware, identity theft and malware among others (Saad 1). Paul Dwyer notes that the main targets of cybercrimes in the Middle East are large financial companies and organizations. This is because criminals achieve great financial gains and prestige, pride and accolades for attacking such organizations. Organizations that lack skills and internal structures for curbing cybercrimes experience great losses. This is usually the case when internal attacks occur combined with the company’s mails phishing (Paul 1).
In the list of the countries that have high vulnerability for cybercrimes, Saudi Arabia tops the list with the United Arab Emirates following it. In Dubai, police officers acknowledge that innovation, revolution as well as advancement in technology combined with population increase and diversity of the educated persons are among the causes of increased cybercrime. More than 700 incidents of computer crash are reported within Saudi Arabia within duration of 9 months. These are usually attributed to the attempts of hackers to get data or valuable information illegally more so credit cards’ details. For instance, in Saudi Arabia some individuals who citizens suspected to be religious cleric’s supporters hacked a newspaper (Paul 5).
On the basis of these statistics, laws and regulations that are aimed at curbing cybercrime were approved by the government of this country. The Bureau of Experts Council of Ministers in the government of Saudi Arabia issued the Anti-Cyber Crime Law. The Royal Decree approved this law later under the Act that the Communication and Information Technology Commission officially published. Cybercrimes are also called electronic crimes and they are global challenges and issues. Over the past years, these crimes have increased in the Middle East. According to Paul, the increase can be attributed to several factors that include increase in the population of this area as well as lack of security awareness and regulations.
Law enforcers do not have the right training on how to fight cyber crimes. People can also access technologies with ease and this has led to sophisticated attacks. The educated population is also diverse. Additionally, there has been an increase in social networks most of which are unsecure. Consequently, terrorists and criminals are using them with eased to find paths that lead to financial organizations making it easy for them to steal financial valuables, data, identities and passwords. Terrorists are consequently using the finances and identities that they steal in committing terrorist attacks. The United States is the main target of terrorists (5).
For successful execution of terrorist attacks, some internet infrastructures are required. They include a line of communication that can be accessed with ease via social networks that are unsecure, a weapon that is usually acquired by internet service denial, recruitment, propaganda that is carried out through the internet, and fundraising, psychological welfare as well as coordinated activities. Modern technology facilitates all these (Paul 6).
Due to technological advancement, there has been an increase in the production of highly sophisticated tablets, iPads and mobile phones within Saudi Arabia. These and other equipment make it easier for terrorists to successfully coordinate and execute terrorist attacks. For instance, Al Qaeda uses modern techniques and technological machines that include steganography to pass hidden messages in form of simple images on the public and open websites to organize attacks. The Saudi Arabian authorities acknowledge that the internet has been used to learn how bombs are built and constructed and how attacks are coordinated. Suicide bombers also called the Jihadists use cyberspace with advanced technology to enhance encryption. On the basis of these facts, the government of Saudi Arabia acknowledges that criminals commit cybercrimes with a desire and the will to hurt the innocent citizens. Professional and experienced terrorists are a serious challenge since they employ advanced technologies in their operations (Paul 8).
The Saudi Arabia cyber laws are under Anti-Cyber Crime Law that published different articles that address specific cyberspace issues. The article 2 of this law aims at combating cybercrimes by identifying criminal activities to make determining the applicable punishments possible. Via this article, the aim of cyber law is to enhance security of information while protecting the rights of legitimate information networks and computer users, public interest, morals, national economies and values in the country (Royal 5).
In article 3, the law asserts that a person found guilty or caught committing any cybercrime should be jailed for a term that does not exceed one year. The individual should also be fined an amount that is not more than 500,000 riyals. Nevertheless, the law allows the authorities to subject cyber criminals to a fine and a jail term. Going by this article, the aim of the cyber law is to offer protection to people from spying, unlawful access of computers for blackmailing and threat purposes, illegal website access via hacking, destruction and/or modifications, invasion of the privacy of another person through camera equipment and mobile phones access and defamation through the use of modern technology devices (KSA 3).
In article 4, the law further asserts that cyber criminals should undergo imprisonment that exceeds 3 years. A fine of less than 2 million riyals and the aforementioned imprisonment can also be applied if the following cybercrimes are committed: stealing bonds and/or property via fraud or by using false identity while appending a signature as well as accessing the bank account of a person or credit data with an aim of stealing data, securities, information, funds and/or services rendered. As such, Saudi Arabia has various cyber laws that aim at curbing cyber crimes within this country while ensuring the safety of the public (KSA 4).
On the basis of the articles of the cyber laws, it is apparent that Saudi Arabia experiences different types of cyber crimes. These include occupying and/or copying website’s URL, website distortion, stealing information of or credit cards in order to access the bank data of another person via false identity or fraud, hacking and using the cyberspace in coordinating domestic or international terrorist attacks (Saad 1). Norton Symantec came up with a report on cybercrime in 2012 that touches on 24 countries that include Saudi Arabia. The report listed different types of cyber crimes including consumer cybercrime, password infringement and security as well as illegal access via technological devices.
This report indicated that over 1.5 million citizens of these countries become victims of different types of cybercrimes on daily basis. They lose more than 100 billion dollars within a year. Modern and traditional cybercrimes are a threat to consumers. Most of them do not know different risks that include the possibility of email password loss to cyberspace criminals (Marco 141).
According to this report, two out of three people access different sites on the internet using mobile phones. The crimes that were committed in 2011 via mobile phones were doubled. Some users were sent text messages by anonymous individuals who requested them to visit embedded links. Others were requested to dial anonymous numbers in order to listen to voice messages (Adam and Marian 4). More than 30 percent of the population has lost mobile phones or they have been stolen. Most people claim that their devices are not secured. Since the implementation of cyber laws, more people now use Wi-Fi connections via mobile phones to access emails and they are concerned about their security as well as that of their personal data. As such, people are keen to use secured Wi-Fi. Most people use secure Wi-Fi connections in accessing social networks, emails, bank accounts and even shopping online. These activities usually involve private and highly sensitive data (Adam and Marian 9).
A Price Water House Coopers (PWC) survey on cybercrime also indicated that more individuals now know about cybercrimes that in the past 10 years. CEOs, HR managers as well as organizational staffs now pay more attention to cyber security. Experts attribute this to the formulation and implementation of the cyber laws and after cyber crimes were defined by different authoritative bodies and agents which also highlighted different ways through which people become vulnerable to cyber crimes (PWC 28).
Systems, strategies and expert groups that focus on fighting crimes that include cybercrimes were established by the Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Commission under the guidelines of the General Assembly. As such, the legal measures that have been employed in the fight against cyber crimes and the vital role that they have played in the prevention and handling of the illegal acts of criminals over the cyberspace are acknowledged by the United Nations (UN 20).
The Saudi Arabian agents are responsible for ensuring that the country’s cyber laws are implemented fully so as to combat and to prevent cybercrimes. Among these agents is the United Arabs Emirates Cyber Crime group that is headquartered in Abu Dhabi. This group ensures full implementation of the Federal Law, the UAE Cyber Crime Law under the leadership of Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the president. This law relates to the protection of credit cards, bank accounts and internet materials’ information as well as other printed information, data and material that may be used in committing fraud (Marco 141).
Under the Penal Code of UAE, there are tougher penalties for individuals who commit cybercrimes. This is due to the fact that the Penal Code includes eavesdropping of private conversations, information and data that is sent via the internet, intervening messages, high-tech systems and electronic devices in cybercrimes. The terms of punishment for these cybercrimes and terrorists’ information publication as a way of communicating with leaders as well as promoting illegal ideologies and/or making explosives and bombs attract the jail term that the law dictates (Marco 14).
In terms of defining cybercrimes as well as listing different types of cybercrimes and how to combat them, the Computer Emergency Response Team played a very significant role. The Federal Protective Service (FPS), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) and the U.S Customs Service (USCS) which are all found in the US have participated in highlighting challenges and issues that relate to cybercrimes. Different countries including Saudi Arabia have known about cybercrimes and the risks that they pose to the entire country and to the citizens through these agencies.
Although sexual crimes that result from cyberspace issues have not been documented properly, it ought to be noted that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the United States listed sexual exploitation more so among the young children as an act that should raise concern in relation to cybercrimes. According to the FBI, there are programs and initiatives that use websites in targeting young children and exploiting them sexually later. These programs and initiatives can be by organizations or individuals and their aim is to enhance child pornography on commercial basis. They produce, create, publish and distribute pornographic materials that include children via websites, social network sites and other online platforms. In Saudi Arabia, cyber laws are implemented for purposes of avoiding these cases in a country that is religious and one that does not allow sexual abuse and child exploitation (USDoJ 14).
On the basis of the data that is available in the sources where the information for writing this article was retrieved, the implementation of cyber law is aimed at preventing and combating computer crimes in Saudi Arabia which are happening all over the world. Cyber crimes are illegal activities that criminals commit using internet connectivity and computers. This implies that Asia, the United States, and the United Kingdom as well as other countries are facing the same challenges. In terms of Saudi Arabia, the implemented cyber laws are important because the government realized that terrorist attacks are coordinated using the internet. These attacks have led to loss of many lives, valuables, properties, morals as well as trust among the citizens of the affected countries.
With an increase in the use of information technology, email abuse, service denial attacks, virus attacks, unauthorized access and data theft have also increased. As such, it was highly important for countries with increasing cases of cyber crimes such as Saudi Arabia to formulate cyber laws, gazette and also implement them so that they can combat, prevent and also eliminate cyber crimes.
Adam, Palmer and Marian Merritt. 2012 Norton Cyber-Crime Report, A Report by the Norton Symantec, 2012.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). ICE Investigations: Missions Roles in Multi Agency Areas of Responsibility, U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement Report, 2007.
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). Anti-Cyber Crime Law, Bureau of Experts Council of Ministers Official Department Saudi Laws, 2007.
Marco, Gercke. Understanding Cybercrime: Phenomena, Challenges and Legal Responses, Telecommunication Development Bureau Report, 2012.
Paul, Dwyer. Cyber Crime in the Middle East, Security GRC & Cyber Crime Report, 2010.
Price Water House Coopers (PWC). Cybercrime: Protecting Against the Growing Threat, Global Economic Crime Survey, 2011.
Royal, Decree. Electronic Transactions Law, A Royal Decree Report No. (M/8), 2007.
Saad, Shwailah. Campaign Crimes and Abuse, Computer Engineering Department Saudi Arabia Report, 2008.
U.S Department of Justice (USDoJ). The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Efforts to Combat Crimes against Children, U.S Department of Justice Audit Report, 2009.
United Nations (UN). Comprehensive Study on Cybercrime, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Report, 2013.