Feeds

UK.gov delay means hacking laws are so last century

Confusion reigns everywhere but Scotland

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

The government has suspended legislation to update the outdated Computer Misuse Act in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, leaving Scotland the only part of the UK with laws to tackle 21st century hackers.

Amendments to the CMA - which was passed in 1990 before the widespread use of the internet - were due to come into force this month, but have been put back to deal with issues including overlaps with other legislation. Measures to clearly outlaw denial of service attacks including other amendments to the CMA were approved by Parliament two years ago when it passed the Police and Justice Act 2006.

These amendments were themselves to be amended by the Serious Crime Act 2007. The Home Office decided to apply all these changes at once to avoid confusion.

But, as security researcher Richard Clayton of Cambridge University notes, the Scottish Parliament took a different tack and used a statutory instrument (here) to bring the first set of these changes into force in Scotland last October (Scotland has devolved authority over areas including computer crime law).

This means that in Scotland (but not south of the border) individuals can be prosecuted for denial-of-service attacks or distributing hacking tools*, but not if the alleged offences happened in England and Wales - at least, not yet.

The anomaly was due to be resolved this month but has now been delayed for an unspecified period. "We are still considering when to bring in the legislation," a Home Office spokeswoman told Computing.

Security researcher Clive Feather has produced a marked-up copy of the Computer Misuse Act in colours to show how UK hacking law currently stands and how it might soon change here. ®

*An outright ban on so-called hacking tools, contained in initial drafts of the legislation, that might have criminalised security pros was modified after lobbying, so that simply using dual use tools such as nmap or wireshark without intent to commit crime would not be an offence. Obtaining, adapting, supplying or offering to supply tools such as wireshark would likewise be above board. But distributing such dual use tools remains an offence, to the chagrin of security experts.

Dual-use tools can be used to either to test the security of a network or by hackers to look for weaknesses.

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
Hello, police, El Reg here. Are we a bunch of terrorists now?
Do Brits risk arrest for watching beheading video nasty? We asked the fuzz
Snowden on NSA's MonsterMind TERROR: It may trigger cyberwar
Plus: Syria's internet going down? That was a US cock-up
UK government accused of hiding TRUTH about Universal Credit fiasco
'Reset rating keeps secrets on one-dole-to-rule-them-all plan', say MPs
Caught red-handed: UK cops, PCSOs, specials behaving badly… on social media
No Mr Fuzz, don't ask a crime victim to be your pal on Facebook
Felony charges? Harsh! Alleged Anon hackers plead guilty to misdemeanours
US judge questions harsh sentence sought by prosecutors
e-Borders fiasco: Brits stung for £224m after US IT giant sues UK govt
Defeat to Raytheon branded 'catastrophic result'
Yes, but what are your plans if a DRAGON attacks?
Local UK gov outs most ridiculous FoI requests...
EU justice chief blasts Google on 'right to be forgotten'
Don't pretend it's a freedom of speech issue – interim commish
Munich considers dumping Linux for ... GULP ... Windows!
Give a penguinista a hug, the Outlook's not good for open source's poster child
This'll end well: US govt says car-to-car jibber-jabber will SAVE lives
Department of Transportation starts cogs turning for another wireless comms standard
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.