October 12, 2006 | Glyn Wintle

Making, supplying or obtaining articles for use in computer misuse offences

Some very well informed, entertaining and persuasive arguments were put forward in the House of Lords yesterday in a debate on 'Making, supplying or obtaining articles for use in computer misuse offences'. Its not often that you here the phrases "script kiddies" and "code monkeys" in Parliament.

Yes, we are once again talking about the proposed amendment (to s42 of the CMA 1990), which criminalises making, adapting, supplying and offering to supply a program that is likely to be used to commit an offence. Although the original amendment has been improved to 'offers to supply a program that is likely to be used to commit an offence', giving coders less cause for concern, the amendment remains fundamentaly flawed.

The many long and very readable speeches are reproduced here, but for those of you only skimming here's Lord Lawson of Blaby giving one succinct argument.

I am concerned about how this wording will be interpreted. It is clear that anything—whether it be a fast motor car or what we are talking about in this debate—that can be used for a malign purpose is likely to be used by someone of evil intent for that purpose. The wording of the Government's amendment is,

   "is likely to be used",

which means anything that is capable of being used. That goes much further than this House should be comfortable with. I hope that the Government will therefore give it consideration. With this amendment, they seek to narrow the conditions, but they are not narrowing them at all. Another look at this is warranted.

Lord Lawson of Blaby - House of Lords debates - Police and Justice Bill - 10 October 2006

The government apparently see nothing wrong in overly broad laws that criminalise activities the vast majority of computing professionals believe should be lawful. The Earl of Erroll summed up the Home Office's attitude as "Well of course we won't chase the good guys. We won't go after them. We are only after the bad guys." If you're not sure why that's a flawed argument have a read through some of the speeches. Why bother with laws and courts at all, if we can trust the police will only go after the bad guys?

Comments (1)

  1. The Open Rights Group : Blog Archive » Computer Misuse Act guidance published:
    Jan 04, 2008 at 03:43 PM

    [...] Back in 2006, when amendments to the Computer Misuse Act were discussed in Parliament, ORG echoed widely-reported concerns that the legislation was far too broad. The security community were especially alarmed that tools [...]