Computer crime is on the increase as there are many users of the internet and social-networking sites. Evaluate the extent to which relevant legislation has intended to serve as a deterrent to such offences.
Since the launch of the computers in the mid 1970’s, they have played a major role in today’s society as it is impossible to live without a computer as most of us are so dependent on them. Computers is used in a number ways such as booking a flight, buying insurance, reading the news, communicating with other people. Another reason people use a computer is to commit crimes.
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Computer crime has risen at an alarming rate as people think they can be undetected and be anonymous. This is because it is easier to commit a crime in the cyber world than in the real world. When a crime is committed in the real world, physical evidence is always left behind such as blood and fingerprints. In the cyber world there isn’t any physical evidence. The thought of their tracks would not be traced, however they are mistaken as tracking down an IP address has become easy to track making it hard for criminals to stay invisible while they are online. An IP address is short for internet protocol address and this identifies a computer on network. The IP addresses are based on the networks that use the TCP/IP protocol. Various activities are committed by not just by criminals but ordinary people as well. These activities would consist of crimes linked to child pornography such as downloading images, stealing identities, hacking to other account to gain information for the third party, creating a virus and money frauds are known to become easier by the use of computers. Credit card numbers, personal id information can also be targeted by programmed automated software. People commit these crimes as they have a thrill of taking advantage of a computer system.
Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) is a common form of attack on computers. This process involves criminals can have controlled access to multiple computers and use them to attack a number of targets or one target. Another form of attack is malicious software (malware). This consists of software that allows criminal to have full control of a system and allowing the malware creator to do whatever they want. The malware can be a number of things such as a virus, worm, Trojan, adware, spyware and a root kit. A virus is the most serious form of attack. This consists the virus affecting the computer or other electronic devices that are passed by other user activity e.g. an email attachment being opened. http://www.seas.ucla.edu/2011, http://www.webopedia.com/2013
As computer crime has risen, the cost of cyber crime is also a threat to the government and the nation. According to the Cabinet office, cyber crime in the UK costs £27bn a year. These costs are made up of £21bn to businesses; which is more than the offices annual budget, £2.2bn to the government and £3.1bn to public. Baroness Neville-Jones the Security minister stated in a briefing “the government was determined to work with industry to tackle cyber crime”. “At the moment, cyber criminals are fearless because they do not think they will be caught”
The Police and Justice act 2006 is an act of parliament in the UK. Part 5 of the act – the miscellaneous section under chapter 48 introduced the Computer Misuse Act 1990 (CMA). The Computer Misuse Act 1990 (CMA) was passed in 1990 and is part of the UK Parliament. The principle of the act to is frame legislation and controls any activity linked to computer crime and internet fraud. The act was introduced to deal with issues that have occurred by the misuse of computers. The act are based on three offences that cover ‘Unauthorized access to computer material’ ‘unauthorised access to a computer with intent to commit or facilitate the commission or a further offence’ and ‘unauthorised modification of computer material’
The first act ‘Unauthorised access to computer material’ even though there isn’t any physical damage, it’s an offence when a person is found guilty of using any computer material without permission which makes it illegal. An example of this would be the case of R v Astrid Curzon. Curzon 49 was found guilty of gaining access to a schools email system. She gained access from her home and therefore found private emails from the head teacher to staff members. The email contained discussions about employment of other staff members.
Another example of this would be the case of DPP v Bignell . Two police officers already had access to the police national computer (PNC) that is only used for police purposes. The pair asked the computer operator who used to the computer to obtain information from the DVLA through the police national computer without knowing it was for their own pleasure purposes. The divisional court had stated that the two polices officers didn’t commit a crime under section 1 Unauthorized access to computer material. the divisional court believe that the two police officers didn’t commit a crime and their conclusions were right, as the decision wasn’t over ruled by the House of Lords in Bignell.
“It was a possible view of the facts that the role of the officers in Bignell had merely been to request another to obtain information by using the computer. The computer operator did not exceed his authority. His authority permitted him to access the data on the computer for the purpose of responding to requests made to him in proper form by police officers. No offence had been committed under section 1 of the CMA.”
In a more recent article in the Daily Mail online(PUBLISHED: 05:00, 17 December 2012) Hollywood stars Scarlett Johansson, Mila Kunis and Christina Aguilera computer was hacked by Christopher Chaney 36, was arrested for wiretapping and unauthorised access when he hacked into their email accounts. He managed to gain access by using Google and then using the “i got forgot my password” button. He tried a number of combinations of names and then he reset account passwords by finding pet names, where they were born, and the name of their schools. The most serious incident when Chaney posted nude photographs of Johansson and her then husband all over the internet.
The second act unauthorised access to a computer with intent to commit or facilitate the commission or a further offence’ as stated in the first act no actual physical damage to the computer material. Using the system without permission would make it illegal and committing a on the system would be illegal too. This act mainly covers actions such as using email contents for blackmail. An example of these would be the case of R v Delamare  the defendant was working in bank and was offered £100 to use the banks computer systems to gain information of other bank details.
The third act unauthorised modification of computer material an example of this act would be the case of R v Pavel Cyganok and Ilja Zakrevski .( published 2 July 2012 Last updated at 11:23 2 July) Cyganok and Zakrevski were arrested and convicted of masterminding hi-tech crimes. The pair used a SpyEye Trojan to obtain login details for online accounts. The stolen data was then uploaded to servers which the pair had access to. £100,000 of the stolen money was stolen and laundered through online accounts allowing criminals to access.
The acts are associated with penalties for both individuals and groups of people that are part of a gang. The penalties can be severe for breaching the three offences. The penalties are varied based on what act have been breached. Each of the offences are divided into summary penalties – a trail without a jury and an indictment penalties – a trail with a jury.
In the first act if the individual was found guilty the summary conviction in England and Wales the prison sentence would be a term of 12 months or a fine up to the statutory maximum (£5000) or both. On a conviction, the prison sentence would be of two years that shouldn’t be exceeded or a fine or both. In the second act, the summary conviction is a prison sentence of 6 months or a fine that is not allowed to be exceeded the statutory maximum or both. On a conviction, the prison sentence would be term of five years or a fine or both. In the third act, if the individual was found guilty the summary conviction would be prison sentence of one year or a fine that is not allowed to be exceeded the statutory maximum or both. On a conviction, the prison sentence would be 10 years or a fine or both.
Section 35 of the Police and Justice 2006 had amended the Computer misuse act 1990. The amended act looks at new offences which offences 1 and 2 are now combined together into a new offence. A new offence was added into the act 3a offence. This affect took place on 1st October 2008. The three new offences are as follows: Unauthorised access to computer materials (hacking), Carrying out unauthorised acts in relation to a computer and Making, supplying or obtaining articles for use in computer misuse offences. The penalties were also added to the new offences. The police and justice act increased the penalties for the first offence unauthorised access to computer material.
The computer misuse act can be compared to other laws and legislations. The Computer Crime Act (CCA) was passed in 1997 is an act of the Malaysian government introduced the legal framework to ease the growth of ICT systems called Cyber laws of Malaysia. The act was given a Royal Assent on June 18, 1997 but didn’t come into force on June 1, 2000. This act was introduced purpose of protecting consumers and people that provide a service. The act also protects online businesses and owners of intellectual property. The act was designed to stop offences as computers are misused in a number of ways, as this was added to other existing criminal legislation. The Computer Crime Act and the Computer Misuse Act do have a number of similarities in the case of the three offences; however it differs in more ways. As the Computer Misuse Act as the three offences, the computer crime act looks at a wider range of offences. The CCA looks at the understanding of computers, the computer network, output, computer data and the functions it uses. The act looks at computer programs and premises. The definition of a computer in CCA is summarised as any electronic devices that are programmable and has the ability to store data.
The CCA looks at more severe penalties compared to the CMA. For the first offence, ‘unauthorised access to computer material’ the Malaysian law states that if the individual were found guilty the prison sentence would be a maximum sentence that shouldn’t be exceeded five years and or a fine of not exceeding RM 50,000 (£10,273,45) for the 2nd offence, the Malaysian law states for the offence of ‘unauthorised access with intent to commit or facilitate commission of further offences’ if the individual were found guilty the prison sentence would be a maximum sentence ten years that shouldn’t be exceeded and or a fine not exceeding RM 150,000(£30,820,35). For the 3rd offence ‘unauthorized modification of the contents of any computer’ the Malaysian law states that if the individual was found guilty the prison sentence would be not exceeding seven years and or a fine not exceeding RM 100,000(£20, 546, 90) On a liable prison sentence not exceeding ten years if the act was intentionally broken and or a fine not exceeding RM 150,000, which is the equivalent to (£30, 820, 35)
The computer misuse act can also compared to the American law the Computer fraud and abuse act 1986. The act was passed by the united congress. The act is a federal legislation that is aimed to restrict computer crimes that come under the federal jurisdiction.the whole purpose of the act was to strengthen, widen, and clarify to protect computer systems from vandalism. The act also includes the usage of virus and programs that have been intended to destroy a computer system. The law prevents ‘the unauthorized access of any computer system’ and ‘the obtainment of classified government information’. http://ecommerce.hostip.info.2013
Comparing to The Computer Misuse Act and The Computer Crime Act (CCA) 1997, the Computer fraud and abuse act 1986 has more severe penalties. If the individual were guilty of physical damage to a computer system, the prison sentence would be a term of 20 years that shouldn’t be exceeded and the fine reaching $250000 (£155,870.00). Under this law, Prosecutors are challenged to prove that the defendant intentionally caused damages to a computer. The other acts are not so severe than this act.
Even though the computer misuse act is in place, the act still does not stop criminals from committing an offence. In the BBc news online (4 July 2011 Last updated at 19:24 ) The crimes are committed as people want to gain information and sell to a third party. In 2011 it was reported back in 2002 the News of the World newspaper had hacked in to Milly Dowler mobile phone and had listened to the voicemails and then deleted the messages. Later the news of the world was forced to shut down the paper after the hacking scandal as they had admitted interfering with teenager’s phone. The victim’s family and friends said it gave them false hope that she was still alive and Milly had deleted the messages herself. By the time the messages were deleted. By this time, the teenager was already murdered. The hacking was classed as an unlawful interception of communications. This comes under Section 1 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.
In an article in the Daily Mail online, (PUBLISHED: 02:08, 9 June 2012 ) 11,000 people are believed to hunted by the police for using a service of a cyber-crime gangs website that offered false identification and tips on how to commit a crime. The gang had cloned a number the identities of people who a high credit rating. Pay slips bank statements, passports and driving licenses was also sold to the gangs’ members. The website also offered other services such as different tiers of access as the users where trusted to use the website. One of the services included a platinum profile that cost £5,500 that came with instructions on how to commit identity fraud. For £2,000, Confidential Access (CA) offered a 100% Creditmaster profile, which was exclusive to ‘VIP’ members of the website. The website was claimed to worth be £200million and had a turnover of £11m between 2004 and 2008. The paying customers paid from around £50 for a utility bill to £800 for a set of three years’ professionally sealed.
Detective Inspector Tim Dowdeswell said:
‘This was a sophisticated operation which has netted millions of pounds over the years. These cyber criminals not only provided the tools to commit fraud, they instructed their clients in how to use them to make the maximum amount of money, whilst ruining real people’s credit histories into the bargain. We have already brought many of their students in crime to court and will continue to work with other police forces and partners to bring those people who bought and used these identities in their own frauds to justice.’
Concluding this essay, computer crime will still be on the increase. Crimes will be committed depending what the motivation is such as greed and pleasurable need. The Computer misuse act 1990 has a number of flaws as it failed in the case of DPP v Bignell  as the prosecutor felt that no crime was committed under section 1 of authorised access. The police national computer (PNC) was used when a police officer obtained information for their own pleasurable needs, even though police officers had access to the PNC. The Computer misuse act 1990 should not have failed, as the police national computer should be used for policing only. Another way it can fail is the source of the crime such as the IP address and hackers would find ways and use another IP address to avoid them getting caught.
I do believe that the computer misuse act can work as a deterrent, as it has a high knowledge that projects any computer system that involves criminating activities. The act helps to keep people safe and their personal information safe too.
My views on the Computer misuse act 1990 that their punishment should be severe as the Computer fraud and abuse act 1986. I say this because i feel with a harsher punishment people will learn their lesson on not to commit a crime. If an individual served a 12 month prison sentence with a small fine, they would be tempted to commit another crime as they would feel that their punishment was not harsh enough.
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My recommendations would be that the Computer misuse act 1990 should have harsher punishments matching up to the penalties of the Computer Misuse Act and the Computer Crime Act (CCA) 1997. I also believe that the government should have more power over the individuals who commit crime as 27bn was wasted on computer crimes. I also i believe that the act should at other aspects and not focusing on three sections. If prosecutors are dealing with computer crime cases, they themselves should have an understanding of the act and not allow anymore cases to be dismissed.
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