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October 05, 2006 | Glyn Wintle

Computer Misuse Act - Potential disaster avoided

Good news! It looks like the last really worrying amendment to the Computer Misuse Act is going to be improved. The amendment would have made it illegal if someone makes, adapts, supplies or offers to supply a program that is likely to be used to commit an offence. In an ideal world it would be deleted, but an improvement is still a good thing.

The amendment in its original form is horrible. By analogy, imagine a world where a politician with no experience of the building trade had heard that sledge-hammers could be used to break down doors to aid in burglary. So the politician writes a law that makes it illegal if someone makes, adapts, supplies or offers to supply building equipment that is likely to be used to commit an offence. I would be hard pressed to find an item of building equipment that could not be used in some way or form to commit a crime.

The always-impressive Spy Blog provides more details along with being the first people to spot the new amendment. Police and Justice Bill - dual use "hacker tools" - has the Government finally seen sense?

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Comments (3)

  1. chrs:
    Oct 05, 2006 at 04:20 PM

    It took my untrained eyes a while to see the difference. So now you can make or adapt your sledge-hammer just so long as you don't offer it to anyone dodgy?

  2. Michael:
    Oct 05, 2006 at 08:53 PM

    Hi Chrs

    That's pretty much it; you can now make, adapt, supply or offer to supply 'sledge-hammers' and not be fear criminal procedings unless you believe that your 'sledge-hammer' is likely to be used to commit, or to assist in the commission of an offence.

    I guess then you're OK to offer your products to dodgy looking people, just so long as you 'believe' they're using them for strictly legal purposes ;)

  3. Glyn:
    Oct 05, 2006 at 10:28 PM

    In an ideal world it would be deleted, but an improvement is still a good thing.

    The current Home Office line appears to be a balance of probabilities argument, that a court decide whether it is more likely than not each individual instance of the article will be used to commit an offence, ie the offence is only committed if it will be used criminally more than legally.

    Lord Northesk has promised to try to get it amended. As it stands, paragraph 1b would make it an offence to release a computer tool that is "likely to be used" in a computer offence. He proposes removing this paragraph. With out this amendment experts are concerned the clause will criminalised IT and security professionals who make network monitoring tools publicly available or who disclose details of unpatched vulnerabilities.



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