Computer Crime Research Center


Hacking expanded

Date: July 13, 2006
By: Vernon Coaker

Computers and networks, and the degree to which we rely on them, have changed almost beyond recognition since 1990, but the framework of the Act remains effective. But to reflect the changed environment, the government is proposing to increase the penalties for unauthorised access and modification of computers in the Police and Justice Bill currently before Parliament.

Hacking and malware have also expanded and, more worryingly, in recent years we have seen an explosion in the availability of hacking tools and services and their use by organised criminals. To target them, we are proposing a new offence to criminalise those individuals who make and distribute hacking tools.

It is important to stress that the new offence does not affect those that use the tools, but covers those who make or distribute them.

There is wide support for a law criminalising individuals who distribute and supply these tools for unlawful means, and the Cybercrime Convention obliges countries to do this. Concerns have rightly been raised about whether the new offence will criminalise IT professionals who make and distribute these tools for legitimate purposes, such as penetration testing or identifying vulnerabilities.

The test for the offence will be whether the person believed at the time that the tool would be used more criminally than legitimately so will not affect them. In a case, the prosecution would need to prove that the accused believed that the hacking tool was likely to be used to commit an offence under section 1 or 3 of the Computer Misuse Act
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