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The law was enacted to:
- Illegalize unofficial access to computer systems
- Dissuade dangerous criminals from using a computer to commit a crime like impairment of access to data saved in the computer.
The CMA is comprehensive and all-encompassing which has brought concerns among privacy supporters who believe in defining government impact on daily life and behavior. Still, the CMA has become a model for computer crime regulation in other countries.
Hacking has been existing since the internet has started. There are some people who just want to try and intervene a computer system.
Before 1990, there was no law in place to address the problems caused by hacking. Everyone knew it was wrong but there was nothing to be done about it.
As the problem expanded, it has become a need to craft a law to prosecute the hackers. Thus, the Computer Misuse Act was passed in 1990.
The Computer Misuse Act (1990) identified the following crimes:
- Illegal access to computer material
- Illegal access intending to engage in a crime
- Illegal alteration of computer material
- Producing, distributing or acquiring anything which can be used in computer misuse crimes
Illegal Access to Computer Material
This is the first level of crime. It is one that many people might have committed at some stage of their lives.
If you have logged into another person’s computer without permission and looked at the files even without doing any harm, it is still considered an illegal access.
This crime can lead to a 6-month imprisonment and/or a substantial fine.
Illegal Access Intending to Engage in a Crime
This is different from the first level of crime as this has an intention to engage in a crime like accessing bank account and transferring money or stealing company secrets. This is done using spyware or through phishing.
This crime can lead to a 5-year imprisonment and/or a substantial fine.
Illegal Alteration of Computer Material
This crime refers to deletion or changes of files with the purpose of causing damage to an individual or an organization. It also includes intentionally contaminating other’s computer with virus. This crime can lead to a 5-year imprisonment and/or a substantial fine.
Producing, Distributing or Acquiring Anything which can be Used in Computer Misuse Crimes
Producing – includes the creation of computer viruses, worms, trojans, malware, malicious scripts etc.
Distributing – covers spreading of computer viruses, worms, trojans, malware, malicious scripts etc.
Acquiring – Intentionally acquiring computer viruses, worms, trojans, malware, malicious scripts etc.
This crime can lead to a 5-year imprisonment and/or an incalculable fine.
Hacking is a very serious offence, even if it there’s no intention to cause damage. Caught hackers will face a lot of trouble with the law.
- Proving the intention to cause damage when the crime was committed.
- Most people claim to be not aware that what they are doing is illegal or they are not aware that they have a virus that infected other systems.
- Tracing responsibility for the crime.
- Most people put the blame to other people saying that someone used their account and password to commit the crime.
- Damage has already been done.
- When the offender is caught, data has been already lost, damaged or distributed.
It would be advisable to take a look at these challenges, revisit the CMA and see possible improvement opportunities to address them. Since cybercrime has been quickly developing, the law should also be quick to regulate them.