The problem in previous years with most aspects of cybercrime was not so much detecting the offence, it’s just the law simply was not able to cope with the various offences. Certainly in the United Kingdom, computer crime was tagged onto other existing offences like theft and fraud but this made them very difficult to prove in many cases. Criminal law in most countries had no real concept of digital crime and offences concerning computers. One of the first statutes in the world directed at these electronic crimes was the Computer Misuse Act which received Royal assent on the 29th June 1990.
It created three specific offences all relating to the unauthorised access to a computer or information stored on a computer. In 2006 it was updated further to clarify some of the omissions of the original act.
- Section 1 – Unauthorised Access to computer material
- Section 2 – Unauthorised access with intent to commit further offences
- Section 3 – Unauthorised Acts with intent to impair or damage a computer.
- Section 3A- Making, obtaining or supplying articles for use in offence 1-3
Pretty much any computer crime can be prosecuted under these offences now although there is sometimes confusion about which section is the most appropriate to use. For example 3A can be applied to any one who produces, buys or supplies things like malware or computer viruses even if they are not involved in any other offence. The Act is careful not to actually define either of the terms ’computer’ or ’misuse’ as any definition could quickly become outdated by technological changes. In fact the section 3a can be applied to a wide variety of online behaviour, it could even be argued that those using proxies to obtain a UK IP address could be subject to this section.
The legislation will come under increasing scrutiny, there’s a huge battle going on across the internet as we speak. Big business is seeking to apply traditional economic models to the internet, by blocking access and charging different prices to maximize profits. But the internet wasn’t designed that way and there is a huge market now in software that eradicates this discrimination. Using proxies, SSH and VPN solutions people are being set free – watching BBC Iplayer and ABC iView from anywhere, bypassing the restrictions these sites currently employ.