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Computer Misuse.


computer misuse


The Computer Misuse Act was created to criminalize unauthorized access to computer systems and to discourage the more serious criminals from using a computer to assist in the commission of a criminal offence or from impairing or hindering access to data stored in a computer.

Computer Misuse Act (1990 in brief).


The Act introduced three new criminal offences:

1 Unauthorized access to computer material.

2 Unauthorized access with intent to commit or facilitate further offences.

3 Unauthorized modification of computer material.






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Penalties.


Uauthorized Access is called a summary offence and penalties are limited to:-

- 6 months imprisonment and/or a maximum fine of £5000.

- Jail terms of up to 5 years and unlimited fines.




Background.


In the UK, there are two main branches of the law: criminal law and civil law

Criminal law.


largely arose because the state wished to forbid or punish behavior that
was not in the public interest. One motivation for criminal law was
the state wished to stop people seeking their own vengeance for wrongs
against their families Hence the state prosecutes cases on behalf of
the public: “R. versus Jones”,

Civil law.


is more concerned with peoples’ rights and obligations – Examples: Business
contracts, Implied contracts (e.g. supermarket purchases)

No laws specifically to deal with computer crime prior to 1990 in UK Other Laws Tried eg.
•  Cox v Riley 1986 (Criminal Damage Act 1971)
•  R. v Whitely 1990 (Criminal Damage Act 1971)
•  R. v Gold and Another (Forgery and Counterfeiting Act (1981)

Two main principles:
• If some conduct is criminal, it should be equally criminal if computer technology is used
•  If some conduct is generally not criminal, it should not become so in a computer context .

Computer misuse offences.


• Unauthorised access to computer material.
• Unauthorised access with intent to commit or facilitate commission of further offences.
• Unauthorised modification of computer material.

Jurisdiction.


• Territorial scope of offences under this Act.
• Significant links with domestic jurisdiction.
• Territorial scope of inchoate offences related to offences under this Act.
• Territorial scope of inchoate offences related to offences under external law corresponding to offences under this Act.

• Relevance of external law.
• British citizenship immaterial.

Miscellaneous and general.



• Saving for certain law enforcement powers.

• Proceedings for offences under section 1.
• Conviction of an offence under section 1 in proceedings for an offence under section 2 or 3.
• Proceedings in Scotland.
• Search warrants for offences under section 1.
• Extradition where Schedule 1 to the Extradition Act 1989 applies.

Described by the Act’s sponsor as ‘simple hacking’:- using a computer without permission.

This carries a penalty of up to six months in prison or a £5000 fine,
and is tried in a Magistrate's Court.


Involves causing a computer to perform some function.

Unauthorised access to computer material.

(1) A person is guilty of an offence if:—

• he causes a computer to perform any function with intent to secure access to any program or data held in any computer;

• the access he intends to secure is unauthorised;

and

• he knows at the time when he causes the computer to perform the function that that is the case.

(2) The intent a person has to have to commit an offence under this section need not be directed at:—

(a) any particular program or data;
(b) a program or data of any particular kind; or
(c) a program or data held in any particular computer.

(3) A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable on
summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months.

Unauthorised access to computer material with intent to commit or facilitate commission of further
offences.


Covers actions such as attempting to use the contents of an email message for blackmail.

This is a more serious offence, and the penalty is up to five years imprisonment and an unlimited fine.


Unauthorised access with intent to commit or facilitate commission of further offences:-

(1) A person is guilty of an offence under this section if he commits an offence under section 1
above (“the unauthorised access offence”) with intent:—

(a) to commit an offence to which this section applies;

or

(b) to facilitate the commission of such an offence (whether by himself or by any other person);and the offence he intends to commit or facilitate is referred to below in this section as the further offence.

(2) This section applies to offences:—

(a) for which the sentence is fixed by law;

or

(b) for which a person of twenty-one years of age or over (not previously convicted) may be sentenced to imprisonment for a term of five years

(or, in England and Wales, might be so sentenced but for the restrictions imposed by section 33 of the [1980 c. 43.] Magistrates' Courts Act 1980).
(3) It is immaterial for the purposes of this section whether the further offence is to be committed on the same occasion as the unauthorised access offence or on any future occasion.

(4) A person may be guilty of an offence under this section even though the facts are such that the commission of the further offence is impossible.

(5) A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable:—

(a) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum or to both;

and

(b) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or to a fine or to
both.


3. Unauthorised modification of computer material.

This section covers distributing a computer virus, or malicious deletion of files, as well as direct actions
such as altering an account to obtain fraudulent credit.


Both (2) and (3) are tried in front of a jury.

The Act also includes the offences of conspiracy to commit and incitement to commit the three main offences.

Unauthorised modification of computer material:

(1) A person is guilty of an offence if:—

• he does any act which causes an unauthorised modification of the contents of any computer;

and

• at the time when he does the act he has the requisite intent and the requisite knowledge.

(2) For the purposes of subsection (1)

(b) above the requisite intent is an intent to cause a modification of the contents of any computer and by so doing:—
• to impair the operation of any computer;

• to prevent or hinder access to any program or data held in any computer;

or

• to impair the operation of any such program or the reliability of any such data.

(3) The intent need not be directed at:—

• any particular computer;
• any particular program or data or a program or data of any particular kind;

or

• any particular modification or a modification of any particular kind.

(4) For the purposes of subsection (1)

(b) above the requisite knowledge is knowledge that any modification he intends to cause is unauthorised.

(5) It is immaterial for the purposes of this section whether an unauthorised modification or any intended effect of it of a kind mentioned in subsection (2) above is, or is intended to be, permanent or merely temporary.

(6) For the purposes of the [1971 c. 48.] Criminal Damage Act 1971 a modification of the contents of a computer shall not be regarded as damaging any computer or computer storage medium unless its effect on that computer or computer storage medium impairs its physical condition.

(7) A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable:—

• on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum or to both;

and

• on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or to a fine or to both.


Finally, the Act attempts to cover international computer crime.
Someone can be prosecuted in the UK as long as there is at least one 'significant link' with this country.

Hacking into a computer in Milan from a terminal in London is illegal etc


Definition of Access.


“Access” means:
• Altering or erasing a program
• Copying it or moving it to a different place
• Using a program or data
• Causing output from the computer

“Output” includes any login messages
 So, you’re accessing a computer, even before you’ve logged-in! (aimed at dial-in scanners)

Hacking.


If a hacker does no damage is it a crime?

Hackers might say:  They’re “testing security”  They didn’t break in (security was inadequate.)

The Act says hacking is a crime because companies have to spend time and money checking that no damage was done


Viruses.


Writing & distributing viruses is covered by the Act.

(“…any act which causes unauthorised modification…”)

It doesn’t matter if no damage is done or if the “damage” is temporary but this doesn’t discourage virus writers!
 Best defence is good anti-virus software





click here to view Computer Misuse Act



 
       
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