back to article Academics call for UK's Computer Misuse Act 1990 to be reformed

Britain's main anti-hacker law, the Computer Misuse Act 1990, is "confused", "outdated" and "ambiguous", according to a group of pro-reform academics. A report launched this morning by the Criminal Law Reform Now Network (CLRNN) described a "range of measures to better tailor existing offences in line with our international …

  1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    "only be sure always to call it, please, research."

    Do we need wider excuses for hacking?

    1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

      "only be sure always to call it, please, research."

      +1 for the Tom Lehrer reference...

      ...and the start of a spiral of infinite regress given that you plagiarised that line

      1. Mike 16

        Does the Vladivostok telephone directory still exist?

        Or is the data-sharing agreement between the FSB (KGB,NKVD,OGPU,Cheka, whatever) allow you to just mutter "I should call Vlad" and your phone will figure out which Vlad you mean, given the time of day, your location, what you last ate and drank, and which particular constellation of keywords was in your most recent text message. Maybe also taking into account billboards on buses passing your location and the probability of you having noticed one of your known associates walking on the other side of the street.

        In any case, how could any right-minded citizen countenance the untrustworthy fellows blabbing about exactly how that works?

  2. John Savard

    Wording Mistake to Avoid

    We don't want hacking done for paparrazi-like reasons to be defensible in the public interest.

    There was a recent column in the Guardian about how the attacks on Harry and Meghan are likely motivated by the fact that the newspapers involved have also been paying large financial settlements to people accusing them of telephone hacking, so far successfully keeping the matter out of the courts. The Royals are less in need of money than most people, so Harry and Meghan pose a danger of making this strategy ultimately fail.

    1. DavCrav

      Re: Wording Mistake to Avoid

      "The Royals are less in need of money than most people, so Harry and Meghan pose a danger of making this strategy ultimately fail."

      I guess you haven't been keeping up with current events. Mr Windsor and Ms Markle are no longer part of the Firm, and need to find £2.5m pronto.

    2. hmv

      Re: Wording Mistake to Avoid

      It should be pointed out that the phrase "in the public interest" doesn't mean what the public is interested in but what they should be interested in ("the welfare or well-being of the general public or society").

      1. Mike 137 Silver badge

        Re: Wording Mistake to Avoid

        Thanks hmv, but it's not actually even what the public should be interested in, but what is in the interests of the public - i.e. tending to public good or preventing public harm. Whether the public is actually interested in that is immaterial. Almost everyone (including politicians and journalists) assume that what the any vociferous subset of the public happens to be interested in is automatically "in the public interest" whereas it's frequently the exact opposite.

      2. Mike 137 Silver badge

        Re: Wording Mistake to Avoid

        Not even really "what they should be interested in" but what it in their best interest, i.e. what is conducive to the common good - a completely different meaning of the word "interest" that has nothing at all to do with whether we want to know about something.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dare we?

    Is it wise to propose ANY law changes under this crackpot "governemnt"?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Dare we?

      The CMA will be updated with longer prison terms and lie detector sessions every week for people convicted and then released... unless of course they worked for Cambridge Analytica.

    2. Cederic Silver badge

      Re: Dare we?


      Any other stupid questions?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Dare we?


        Do you take all snide comments on the state of our government literally?

  4. Arthur Daily

    Let the punishment fit the crime comes close. Fines for civil misdemeanour's need to be added to remove matters that do not belong under criminal matters.

    The original drafting was deliberately penned wide so DPP's job was easier, and because defence clauses would be complicated in an international setting. Most importantly contributory negligence needs to explicitly added for the defence. Yes a rewrite is needed, but they won't because Assauge cases need excuses for easy extradition. We already know UK law does not measure up to the more honourable and honest EU standards.

  5. HmYiss

    Let us break the law - cus we r wannabe gangsta.




  6. Cynical Pie

    Piers is that you?

    Its all well and good claiming public interest but the press in this country have a hard time differentiating between 'in the public interest' and what is interesting to the public (and sells papers/advertising space)

  7. Mike 137 Silver badge

    From day one

    The CMA has been pretty ineffectual ever since its inception in 1990. For example, it took a decade and a half to get a reckless denial of service offence into the Act (Police and Justice Act 2006, S.36) despite the first ever DoS (the Morris worm) being a reckless attack. A survey I conducted at that time showed that the Act was hardly ever invoked where an alternative ground for prosecution was available, largely because police forces typically didn't understand how to interpret it.

    One of our contributions to the 2004 APIG public enquiry into the first revision of the act recommended that a framework of definitions be included in the Act (or referred to if an adequate one was already established elsewhere), as it was clearly also beyond the capacities of the judiciary to get their heads round the technicalities of many instances of computer misuse. However Parliament decided that this was impractical as creating durable definitions was beyond them too.

    Since then, the Act has continued on much the same trajectory despite further revision. What's really needed is not yet more revision of a fundamentally flawed piece of legislation, but to start from scratch from a different standpoint - that of outcomes, rather than of technically oriented actions, as offences. After all, it's the results that matter - the harm done.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: From day one

      It's far too difficult to convict under it at the moment, we never cite it, if any data is accessed, stolen, deleted etc then Data Protection tends to be the route.

      CMA is a mess, needs reformed but really does not need to be weakened - that's my issue.

  8. Mike 16

    Ollie and Mary?

    Or was I the only one to be (mildly) curious whether the Ollie and Mary Whitehouse are related.

  9. EnviableOne

    TBF the current CMA is the worst of both worlds, its a flowery catch all with no teeth, some of the things you can cover with it, if done in the physical world would net you life, wheras CMA only has a 10 yr maximum.

    So theres a lot to be said for obsoleting it and writing something that has sensible penalties and sensible Caveats for legitimate non-nefarious means.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon