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THE National Assembly has approved a new law aimed at combating cybercrimes.
The Computer Crimes and Cyber Security Bill, 2022, was approved on Tuesday.
It will now be referred to the Senate for further deliberations. If approved, the Bill will then be taken to the King for royal assent before it becomes law.
If passed into law, the act will give the state powers to monitor cyberspace, define cybercrimes and prescribe penalties that include fines and lengthy prison sentences.
Some of the crimes defined in the bill include data espionage, cyber terrorism, cyber extortion, distributing child pornography, computer-related forgery and fraud, identity-related crimes, racist and xenophobic insults and distribution of nude images of people without their consent.
Other offences include publication of false information, interception of electronic messages or money transfers, modification and interference with contents of a message.
Lesotho is lagging behind in cyber security issues due to lack of policies and strategies, thereby exposing it to all sorts of cybercrimes.
This was highlighted by the Communications, Science and Technology Minister, Sam Rapapa, during a three-day cybercrime maturity assessment workshop which began on Tuesday and ends today.
The workshop was organised by the ministry in collaboration with the Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA).
Mr Rapapa said the increasing migration of work to digital platforms called for protection against cyber-attacks.
Stakeholders at the workshop included academics, national security agencies, mobile network operators, information technology companies, and the media.
Mr Rapapa indicated that Lesotho was yet to develop cybercrime combatting strategies and policies. However, the government had just approved the Computer Crimes and Cyber Security Bill, 2022, which he hailed as a move towards advancing cyber-crime protection.
“It is worth noting that Lesotho is yet to work on a cyber security strategy or policy, incident management capabilities. There is a limited number of knowledgeable people in cyber security issues including government institutions,” Mr Rapapa said.
The cyber security maturity assessment would therefore help to identify existing gaps and map the way forward, he said.
He commended the National Assembly for passing the Bill after initially rejecting it in 2021.
“We have had a long journey with the Bill. It was tabled last year but the ministry was forced by parliament to withdraw it for broader consultations and also amending it to include the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF), the private sector, and representatives of higher learning in the Cyber Security Council.
“This is an achievement which should be vital in the implementation of recommendations that will come out of this august workshop. The highest fine is M13 million while the lowest is M500 000,” Mr Rapapa said.
LCA acting CEO, Nizam Goolam, echoed Mr Rapapa’s sentiments that Lesotho was lagging behind in cyber protection.
Mr Goolam said the only solace for Lesotho was that as a late bloomer, it would be able to draw experiences from other nations that have already developed robust cyber security systems without having to first undergo trials.