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Computer Misuse Offences

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Computer Misuse Offences The Computer Misuse Act created three new offences in response to the Law Commission Working Paper No. 186, on Criminal Law: Computer Misuse (Cm 819), published in October 1989. Even before the Act, dishonest computer activities were quite well-covered by the criminal law, and in particular by theft, and related offences. A common type of computer fraud involves gaining unauthorized access in order to transfer funds to one's own account, or that of a friend. Another common variety is to use a forged bank card to obtain money from a cash dispenser. Because only the computer is deceived, it is probable that neither of these activities amounts to obtaining property by deception, since there is authority that that offence requires deception of a human mind. Nevertheless, it is clear that this type of fraud has always constituted theft. Computers can also be used to commit the offence of blackmail, for example where a computer virus is introduced to a system (for example a time bomb, whose purpose is to corrupt or delete stored information after the lapse of a period of time), accompanied later by threats that some or all the files on the system will be corrupted unless a sum of money is paid into a particular account. ...read more.


In particular, hacking was not a criminal offence, and while unauthorized users may well, in using the computer, commits other offences, there were greater evidential difficulties in prosecuting such offences than in the case of non-computer crime. Nor was the deliberate creation of computer viruses a criminal offence. The least serious new offence, to be found in s. 1 of the Act, makes hacking criminal, whether or not any harm is intended. Thus, even hacking out of curiosity, of for the challenge of breaking through a security system, is covered, so long as the hacker is aware that his access is unauthorized. The offence is triable summarily, and is punishable by a maximum of six months' imprisonment and/or �2,000 fine. While s. 1 is aimed at unauthorized access, it is not necessary actually to gain access, attempted accessing also falling within the section. It is necessary only to cause 'a computer to perform any function with intent to secure access', so that, for example, an attempt to log on, which is rejected by the computer, falls within the section. ...read more.


In each case the s. 2 offence is committed as soon as the hacker 'causes a computer to perform any function' with the requisite intent. This could be long before the offences respectively of attempted theft and attempted blackmail are committed. The s. 3 offence, which carries the same maximum penalty as s. 2, is aimed at those who introduce worms and viruses to computer systems. If the physical condition of the computer is impaired, whether intentionally or recklessly, an offence under the Criminal Damage Act 1971 may also be committed. Section 3 covers non-tangible damage, which is now (by s. 3(6) expressly excluded from the Criminal Damage Act, but intention is required (as defined in s. 3(2)-(4). Recklessness is not sufficient. As explained above, the removal of Criminal Damage Act liability by s. 3(6), except where the computer is physically damaged, probably represents a change in the law. An omission from s. 3 is that it does not, at any rate directly, cover the professional virus writer, who does not directly introduce viruses on to computer systems, but distributes them in book, or other printed form. He or she may possibly be guilty of incitement to commit an offence under s. 3, however. ?? ?? ?? ?? Craig Lloyd 1 5/9/2007 ...read more.

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