Feeds

PC repair techs police dangerous picture law

Careful where you surf

SANS - Survey on application security programs

A visit to your PC repair shop could be swiftly followed by a trip to court and a short stay in your local jail if it harbours any remotely questionable material - whether you knew about it or not.

That, at least, is the fear as the latest confirmed outing for the Dangerous Pictures Act sees one individual prosecuted after a PC engineer spotted potentially unlawful pictures on their PC - and his line manager passed on details to the police.

The case was decided in St Helens Magistrates Court last week, and the defendant, described by District Judge Ian Lomax as having "low social skills", was sentenced to an 18-month supervision order, 24 hours at an attendance centre and costs of £65.

The relative lightness of this sentence is explained as the judge observed that the motivation for this offence, involving just 14 images, was curiosity: no sharing of files or processing had taken place.

This case highlights two interesting aspects of the now active extreme porn law, which makes it a criminal offence merely to possess certain types of imagery.

First, if recent reports from our enforcement sources are correct, the law is now very definitely being used by police to target pictures involving bestiality.

In the previous instance, it appears that it was used in preference to a charge under the Obscene Publications Act. This suggests that it may simply be easier to obtain a conviction under a law that states that depiction of sex with an animal is an offence – rather than asking a jury to determine whether such a picture "tended to deprave or corrupt".

Second, we have yet to see the law being used specifically in respect of "extreme" imagery – which was the initial justification for its passing. Time will tell.

In respect of computer repairs, this case highlights the risks taken every time a computer is handed over for examination. According to lawyer Julian Young, senior partner at Julian Young & Co, there is no obligation on a computer repair person to refer a matter to the police – though he did comment that he believed that such an obligation did exist in respect of photographic processing.

"There is little comeback for anyone reported in this matter," he said. "In English law, the doctrine of 'fruit of the poison tree' does exist – but mostly in respect of police behaviour. For instance, if the police have obtained a warrant to search premises by deception, then evidence found as a result of that search may be ruled inadmissible.

"However, in the case of a computer engineer reporting you or your PC to the police, you are unlikely to have any comeback. If no prosecution follows and you are able to show that the individual was browsing areas that were not relevant to their work – or the referral was motivated by malice – there might be some limited remedy.

"But it would be very difficult to prove."

This was confirmed by lawyers specialising in IT Contract Law: if you hand your computer over for repair, there is an expectation of privacy – but it is very difficult to show that this has been breached, and therefore very difficult to obtain any redress.

We also spoke to a computer engineer working with a large repair firm in South London. They expressed the view that, contrary to popular belief, there was often a need to look at data on a hard drive.

He said: "One of the most common problems we are asked to deal with is data recovery.

"Many trojans will corrupt the Windows partition table. We use data recovery software to scrutinise the hard drive and hopefully fix the problem. However, before we hand the computer back, it is standard practice to look at some images – very briefly – to make sure that the data has been recovered accurately.

"We don’t browse our clients’ computers for fun: but we do look at a range of files to check that we have done the job successfully. If, in the course of that check, I came across something serious – child porn or terror material – I would certainly alert the police."

Whilst in theory this should only be of concern to individuals who habitually surf in areas where they ought not, readers should remember that many porn sites will download all manner of images, sometimes going well beyond the matter originally sought.

The lesson is therefore clear: be careful where you surf. Clean your PC regularly: and take your own back-ups. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Putin tells Snowden: Russia conducts no US-style mass surveillance
Gov't is too broke for that, Russian prez says
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Lavabit loses contempt of court appeal over protecting Snowden, customers
Judges rule complaints about government power are too little, too late
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Don't let no-hire pact suit witnesses call Steve Jobs a bullyboy, plead Apple and Google
'Irrelevant' character evidence should be excluded – lawyers
Edward Snowden on his Putin TV appearance: 'Why all the criticism?'
Denies Q&A cameo was meant to slam US, big-up Russia
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Record labels sue Pandora over vintage song royalties
Companies want payout on recordings made before 1972
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Judge halts spread of zombie Nortel patents to Texas in Google trial
Epic Rockstar patent war to be waged in California
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.