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Cybersecurity Awareness -The Disadvantages of Impersonation


Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

By Arthur Moses Opio and Gilbert Nsanzimana

ICT by nature is in constant evolution but the previous year 2020 whose headline was “the global pandemic” resulted in an understanding of the undoubted necessity of technology in our daily dealings. From the basic needs to leisure activities, the common word has been “online”. Academic institutions that have not tried it before have had to make it possible. 
The world has registered a skyrocket increase in the use of ICT recently.

By last month April 2021, 60% of the entire world’s population is estimated to be using ICT in the daily lives. Correspondingly the number of people that use social media has overwhelmingly shot-up to 4.33 billion worldwide, implying 55% of all the people on earth use social media.
Research by the Global WebIndex indicates that the average amount of time one person spends on Social media is 2 Hours and 25 minutes daily.

As more of our lives go online, it is very necessary to understand the ethical conduct in order to get the best out of the ICT tools. Today, we will talk about the often-done but dangerous conduct.

Online Impersonation

The act of using one’s name, identity, persona or brand without the consent of the victim. It is usually carried out to give out information that the owner would not avail by will. Some of the reasons why cybercriminals do this are to defraud, intimidate, harass, embarrass or threaten a concerned individual. Recently people use other people’s identities to misinform the public in the interest of their gain. 

Is Online Impersonation a crime?

Impersonation by itself is a crime and the legal consequences go beyond when it is accompanied by certain other acts such as committing criminal acts or a civil wrong. Well, we will approach this by analyzing what the Service providers, States and Institutions say.

Twitter says “Twitter accounts that pose as another person, brand, or organization in a confusing or deceptive manner may be permanently suspended under Twitter’s impersonation policy.”

Facebook says “Facebook is a community where people use their authentic identities. It’s against the Facebook Community Standards to maintain more than one personal account”.

One of the most criminal acts done/committed in Uganda is Defamation; the act of creating a fake profile that contains the victims’ faked information such as political views, relationship status, sexual orientation, religious views or other disclosure of private information. This amounts to the misuse of private information and the Impersonator can be punished by the Law.

Online Impersonation in Uganda

It is has become a very common act in recent days. Criminals have faked Police social media accounts to pass on wrong information to the public, Ministries, Social media influencers, politicians, banks and individuals of high social profile have had their accounts impersonated for several reasons. It’s common to see companies disclaiming social media posts made by impersonators. 
The public needs to be aware that these acts are condemned by the law. Social media users must be careful to understand the “Dos’ and “DON’Ts’ of internet services. Being able to share something online does not mean you should share it. Ethical aspects must be considered. People need to be aware that they can even go to Jail because of a single post on Facebook, Twitter or WhatsApp, 

What’s the punishment for Impersonation in Uganda?
The Uganda Computer Misuse Act 2011 Section 2 defines Electronic Fraud as “Deception, deliberately performed with the intention of securing an unfair or unlawful gain where part of a communication is sent through a computer network or any other communication and another part through the action of the victim of the offence or the action is performed through a computer network or both.”

Electronic Fraud criminals are punishable by a hefty fine, ban on using Internet-capable devices or even prison. The act defines the punishment in section 2) (19) (1) which says, 

“A person who carries out electronic fraud commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding three hundred and sixty currency points or imprisonment not exceeding fifteen years or both.”

In a case in the United Kingdom, click link, a woman was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment after being charged with Identity theft for creating fake Facebook profile of her ex-boyfriend.

Online impersonation at Makerere University

Providing reliable and safe Internet services is one of the core goals that Makerere University has achieved and is continually expanding. From halls of residence, lecture rooms and the entire University area, Internet can be well accessed. Students need to be familiar with the policies that govern the usage of the Internet resources at the University.

Makerere University defines the policies that govern the use of the University’s ICT resources. Mentioned among the Unacceptable use of ICT resources is Online Impersonation.

The policy says, “Sending electronic mail that purports to come from an individual other than the person actually sending the message using, for example, a forged address” is Unacceptable. 

In conclusion, we urge students, staff and the community out there to always think twice before sharing any information, Verify that the source is the legitimate and avoid as much as possible to forward unverified information.



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