Just like any other tool, people can use computers to carry out illegal activities or cause damage. With today’s nature of computer networks and the advent of the internet, criminals can carry out their activities across national and international borders easily creating jurisdiction problems for computer crime investigators. Every country applies different laws when dealing with computer crimes, as such, an activity deemed criminal in one country might not necessarily be considered to be a crime in another country.
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Computer misuse comes in different forms. One form of computer misuse occurs when a person uses a computer to commit crimes such as forgery, copyright piracy, and fraud. Computer crime laws are applied when dealing with these types of computer-based crimes for prosecution. Another form of computer misuse occurs when a person gains unauthorized access to information stored in computers.
Criminals use such information in corporate espionage, ransom opportunity or to further illegal activities such as fraud. Hackers and Phishers use software and spoof emails to gain access past the computer security system.
The introduction of malicious software on a computer is another form of computer misuse. Common types of malware such as worms, viruses, Spyware, and Trojans destroy data and hardware when installed on the computer.
Modern malware has the capacity to operate without the knowledge of computer users and steal important information such as credit cards details and other personal information. New technology has resulted in a new type of computer misuse known as Denial of Service (DoS) which blocks users from accessing computer resources. This is made possible by Flooding servers with more information than they can process, forcing websites to go down.
Due to the complex nature of computers and the internet, it is very difficult to come up with legislation targeting a specific type of computer misuse. In debating the Computer Misuse Act of 1990, lack of understanding of computers and the Internet was evidence, resulting in repressive approaches which do not have a significant contribution in reducing computer misuse. When the Act was passed by the UK parliament, three offenses were made.
The Act is in a way a blunt instrument in that many modern household gadgets like mobile phones, washing machines, etc are fully computerized, and by changing the settings without producer permission, it leads to breach of some sections of the Act.
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The Computer Misuse Act of 1990 has other flaws which can not be wished away. When a person who is authorized to access a computer access information for unauthorized purposes, he/she can not be prosecuted under the Computer Misuse Act. In such instances, the Data Protection Act of 1998 becomes the applicable law in prosecution.
Another issue that requires close scrutiny is the fact that many computer disruptions such as online hacking and malware result from poor software. The general feeling is that software producers such as Microsoft should be pressed to improve software security in a bid to curb computer misuse and crimes.
Computer misuse comes in many different forms resulting in serious crimes such as fraud, piracy, malware, hacking, and phishing. In the UK, the 1990 Computer Misuse act and the 1998 Data protection Act are some of the legislation in force, meant to curb computer crimes. A better understanding of computers and the internet coupled with extensive research is important in coming up with enforceable laws. This way, significant gains will be made in reducing computer misuse.
Computer Misuse Act 1990. Web.
Frank Bott, Allison Coleman and Jack Eaton. 2000. Professional Issues in Software Engineering, New York, CRC Publishers.
Great Britain Law Commission. 1989. Criminal Law: Computer Misuse, London, H.M.S.O. Publishers.
Guidance on Computer Misuse Act. 2008. Web.
Jay Bloom Becker. 1993. Computer Crime Laws, New York, Clark Boardman Callaghan Publishers.
Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology. 2006. Computer Crime. Web.
Sandra Davidson Scott. 1991. Computer Technology Vs Laws on Access, New Jersey, Pearson Prentice Hall Publisher.
Steven L. Shaffer, Alan R. Simon. 1994. Network Security, Toronto, AP Professional Publishers.