Cyber crime is growing in Algeria, thanks to the ease of internet access and the legal vacuum regarding the protection of personal data on the web.
The anonymity of the internet is a real danger, especially on social networks. These allow intimate data to become public, exposing private citizens to exploitation by criminal networks.
Social networks also provide a way to spread forgeries of literary and artistic works, and propagate paedophiliac material.
Investigators encounter difficulties, however, in tracking down cyber-criminals, due to the growing number of internet cafes and public WiFi networks.
Algerian police have responded to complaints made by citizens. The police also have had to deal with international cases, such as that of two Algerian hackers who made fraudulent withdrawals from foreign banking institutions.
Many people have been the victims of online fraud operations, many of which are based in West Africa. These victims often do not file complaints, as they are ashamed of their greed. Indeed, the lure of easy profit encourages them to spend huge amounts of money that they might never get back.
Given that the internet is also used by terrorists to propagandise, recruit and communicate, there is cause for concern about this unregulated and unmonitored platform.
In societies where the illiteracy rate remains high and the internet is not widely available, the threat is reduced. It must nonetheless be taken seriously, because criminal networks are always looking for the slightest loophole.
And the internet offers them an incredible opportunity to commit crime, along with little likelihood of detection.
Governments in the region often stand powerless before these risks. Efforts to control the internet would face an outcry from human rights defenders, who would certainly accuse their states of constraining individual liberties.
But through international co-operation and the exchange of information, we can still mount an effective fight against this new threat.
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