The Computer Misuse Act of 1990 makes certain activities illegal, such as hacking into other people’s systems, misusing software or helping someone else to gain access to protected files on another person’s computer.
The act is split into sections and makes the following acts illegal:
1. Unauthorised access to computer material. This forbids a person from using someone else’s identification to access a computer, run a program or obtain any data, even if no personal gain is involved. It is also illegal to change, copy, delete or move a program. If you discover that someone has forgotten to log off their computer would you be tempted to take a look at their files? This offence carries the penalty of being sentenced to six months in prison and/or a fine.
2. Unauthorised access with intent to commit or facilitate a crime. This means gaining unauthorised access to someone else’s system with the sole purpose of doing something illegal. Access might be gained by guessing or stealing someone’s password or by using programs such as spyware, keylogging software or phishing scams to steal data. Data theft is the act of stealing computer-based information from an unknowing victim with the intent of compromising privacy or obtaining confidential information.
It is also an offence to allow someone else to use your identification and/or system to send material that might be offensive or to start worms or viruses. This would be facilitating someone else’s intent or crime. This offence carries the penalty of up to five years in prison and/or a fine.
3. Unauthorised modification of computer material. This offence relates to the deletion of or changes made to files with the intent to cause damage to an individual or company, it also covers purposely introducing viruses to other peoples’ systems. If you knowingly transmit a virus to others, you are guilty under this section of the Computer Misuse Act. This offence carries a penalty of up to five years in prison and/or a fine.
4. Making, supplying or obtaining material that could be used in computer misuse offences.
Making includes the writing or creation of computer viruses, worms, Trojans, malware, malicious scripts etc.
Supplying covers the distribution of any of the above material whether you have created it yourself or obtained it from elsewhere. It is an offence to supply or distribute these files to others.
Obtaining If you purposely obtain malicious files such as computer viruses or scripts that you know could be used to damage computer systems, you have committed an offence under the Computer Misuse Act. This offence carries a penalty of up to ten years in prison and/or an unlimited fine.
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