Southern Africa Regional Cyber Investigations & Electronic Evidence Workshop

Remarks by U.S. Ambassador Lisa A. Johnson during the Southern Africa Regional Cyber Investigations & Electronic Evidence Workshop

On behalf of the U.S. Embassy in Windhoek, I would like to welcome all of you to the U.S. Department of Justice’s workshop on investigating cybercrime and collecting electronic evidence. This is a matter of importance and urgency for countries all over the world.

We are glad to welcome prosecutors and investigators from Namibia, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Seychelles, Swaziland, and Zambia. Over the next three days, you will have the opportunity to hear about and share strategies for investigating crimes committed through new technologies and the Internet.
Technology and the Internet have provided great benefits to society — technology helps us innovate, facilitates the growth of our economies, and connects us to our loved ones with more ease than ever before. Indeed, cell phones, computers, and the Internet are important forces for positive change and development throughout the entire world.

However, they also can be abused. When used for criminal enterprise, technology can facilitate the commission of crime, whether it be new ways to perpetrate fraud or easier methods to invade citizens’ privacy.

Conducting effective cybercrime investigations is in all countries’ national interest. Successful prosecutions of those who commit cybercrimes can ensure that emerging technologies remain secure and trusted. We need to protect both those who build and those who use cell phones, computers, and the Internet if we are to continue to foster innovation and creativity, safeguard consumers, and drive economic growth.

As you will learn this week, technology can be used in almost any crime, from homicide to fraud, often leaving behind a digital trail of evidence. Unfortunately, electronic evidence is fragile and can perish, even unintentionally.  For example, businesses routinely delete computer data in the course of normal activity. Electronic evidence can be lost at the touch of a single key, or even just by turning off a computer or cell phone. Therefore, effective tools and techniques for capturing electronic evidence are vital to law enforcement in the 21st century.

Cyber investigations cannot be effective without international cooperation. Investigating cybercrime and collecting electronic evidence are, by their very natures, transnational activities. Electronic devices and the World Wide Web have created a truly global economy and enable global communications on a scale never seen before. We all stand to benefit from this new era of easy global commerce and communication. However, because cell phones, computers, and the Internet traverse every country, so too can criminals.

Criminals can easily route their communications through multiple countries of their choosing. And, while such technology and the criminals who exploit it for illicit gain are not constrained by international borders, law enforcement is. Accordingly, we must cooperate with our neighbors and international partners in investigating cybercrime and collecting electronic evidence.

The 24/7 High Tech Crime Network, which will be discussed as part of this workshop, is designed to address the timely collecting and sharing electronic evidence between countries.

I also want to let you know that you are not alone in this fight here in Africa. The problem is the same everywhere: in America as well as in Namibia or Zambia or Botswana. Transnational criminal organizations are a threat to our global communities. Not only are these organizations targeting infrastructure in the United States, but they also have targeted the U.S. Embassy right here in Namibia.  As some of you may know from working on these investigations, cybercriminals have used the U.S. Embassy in Windhoek to target and defraud legitimate businesses in Namibia. We have worked closely with Namibian authorities on these investigations. It is imperative that we all continue to work closely together to send a message to cybercriminals that this type of criminal activity will not be permitted to continue.

The program you will be participating in over the next few days is presented by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, as well as Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance, and Training, with funding provided by the U.S. Department of State. The U.S. government has been conducting workshops and providing technical assistance on cybercrime issues in Africa since 2006. We are deeply committed to helping your counties fight cyber-crime.

Throughout the course, we hope you will share your experiences to help each other learn. You truly are the first line of defense against the victimization of your citizens and your economies. The tools and techniques covered in this workshop will enable you to better protect your countries and societies.

In closing, I congratulate you all on the steps taken so far to counter cybercrime. I am confident this workshop will be an excellent opportunity to share experiences and work together toward our shared goal of combating cyber crime. Thank you for coming to Windhoek to take part in this important event.