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UK cybercrime overhaul finally comes into effect, DDoS doubly illegal from 1 October
From: n3td3v <xploitable () gmail com>
Date: Tue, 30 Sep 2008 17:14:57 +0100

Updates to the ageing Computer Misuse Act (CMA) finally come into
force in England and Wales on Wednesday (1 October).

Modifications to the CMA - which was enacted in 1990 before the advent
of the interweb - were included in the Police and Justice Act 2006.
These changes were then themselves amended by the Serious Crime Act
2007. In order to avoid confusion the government decided to apply
these changes all at once, through a (delayed) legislative order that
comes into effect on 1 October.

Scotland has devolved authority in areas such as computer crime law,
so measures such as the clear criminalisation of denial of service
attacks entered the statue books north of the border a year ago in
October 2007.

The amendments cover three main provisions. Though there was
widespread agreement that the UK's existing computing law was
outdated, each of the changes has attracted criticism to a greater or
lesser degree.

First up, the maximum penalty for unauthorised access to a computer
system (the least serious of three hacking offences covered in the
original act) has been raised from six months to two years in prison,
making the offence serious enough that an extradition request can be

Denial of service attacks, previously something of a legal grey area,
are now clearly criminal, with a maximum penalty of up to ten years
behind bars. Requests to introduce changes along these lines were made
repeatedly by industry representatives during parliamentary hearings
on UK computer crime laws, but are nonetheless controversial in some

Spyblog describes the changes as "ill-defined" and duplicated in the
Identity Cards Act 2006 as far as attacks on the planned National
Identity Register centralised database are concerned. The site
suggests that industrial action by computer consultants and the like
working on the database would become a criminal offence.

Thirdly the amended act makes it an offence to distribute hacking
tools for criminal purposes. Politicians initially suggested an
outright ban on so-called hacking tools, which would have made
possession of dual-use software package such as Nmap a criminal
offence. The technically illiterate measure would have turned white
hat penetration testers into cybercrooks. Following industry lobbying
the measures were modified but still include provisions that
criminalise the distribution or creation of "hacking tools" where
criminal intent can be established, modifications that have failed to
satisfy security experts.

Spyblog's withering critique of the changes is well worth a read and
can be found here. Security researcher Clive Feather has published
colour-coded excerpts of the Computer Misuse Act highlighting the
amendments here. (R)


UK cybercrime laws derive from those covering the tort of trespass
whereas equivalent US law laws are based on older legislation covering
fraud, hence the need in US law to prove that victims of cybercrime
suffered damages.


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