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The All Party Parliamentary Internet Group (APIG) is to hold a public inquiry to see if Britain’s key computer crime law - the Computer Misuse Act 1990 - needs updating.

The inquiry will look at issues such as whether the Computer Misuse Act is broad enough to cover the criminality encountered today and the possibility that the Act containsloopholes" that need plugging.

APIG will consider if tougher penalties are needed to deter computer crime. And it willalso consider if revisions to the Act are needed to meet Britain’s international treaty obligations, such as the Council of Europe Cybercrime Convention.

APIG calls upon interested parties to present written evidence to the inquiry (which can be emailed to inquiry@apig.org.uk) before 9 April.

A public hearing will be held in the House of Commons on the April 29, giving MPs the opportunity to question industry, Government and the invited members of the public on schemes to revise the Act. The inquiry's report will be published in June 2004.

New technology outpacing legislation

APIG reckons the Computer Misuse Act has stood the test of time pretty well. However the fast moving nature of Internet and mobile technology has created an environment ehich legislators could never have imagined when the law was drafted, hence the need to review the legislation.

Last month, Home Office minister Caroline Flint identified updating the Computer Misuse Act as a government as a priority at the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit's second e-Crime Congress.

Richard Allan MP, joint vice-chairman of APIG, supports her assessment: “The law in this area needs updating and we will look at how this can be done most effectively."

Derek Wyatt MP, chairman of APIG, added: “There is a lot of very disruptive activity on the Internet, from outright hacking and the distribution of viruses, through denial of service attacks on systems, and right down to the sending of spam via insecure end-user machines. Some of this is clearly illegal today, but some of it seems to fall into grey areas or is difficult to deal with across jurisdictional borders."

"We need to know if the law, both in the UK and elsewhere, needs strengthening to ensure that we can deter bad behaviour, and also prosecute and convict where necessary."

Where’s the enforcement of existing laws?
Nick Ray, chief executive of intrusion prevention outfit PrevX, welcomed APIG's inquiry and the attention it will bring onto the issue of computer crime.

However, the lack of enforcement of existing laws is one of the main problems, he says. More accurate statistics and better reporting mechanisms - would make sure the scope of the problem was more accurately understood, he added. ®

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