What do I need to know about computer hacking and the law?

What do I need to know about computer hacking and the law?

Computer hacking is illegal and carries a possible sanction of imprisonment. Computer hacking has been thrown into the public eye recently with increasing allegations that certain newspapers hired private investigators to hack into people’s phones and computers in order to obtain stories that would sell.

Computer Misuse Act

Under the Computer Misuse Act it is an offence to hack into somebody else’s computer or send them a form of virus that allows them to obtain information from somebody else’s computer.

The reasoning for the introduction of this Act was the fear that individuals, in particular private investigators, might be able to obtain information about other individuals without their knowledge or consent.

An individual should be entitled to keep what they have on their computer private and only allow others to use it by giving their consent, and companies have the need to store confidential data or intellectual property rights securely.

In most cases computer hacking will carry a relatively lengthy punishment because there are other more serious elements to the crime than simply computer hacking. Computer hacking is often used as a method to commit crimes such as fraud or theft. Naturally, if somebody were to hack computers to steal things from another computer then the more serious offence would be the actual theft. Computer hacking would be the aggravating factor that would add to the criminal punishment dished out by a judge.

Targets of computer hacking

A common target for computer hackers is the intellectual property of a particular individual or company. Intellectual property is a form of original creation which has the protection of a patent or copyright. But if another individual or company can claim to have come up with the product without copying the original they may well be able to sell it legally.

Computer hackers thus often target places where secrets about intellectual property can be stored and then try to remove the information from that computer. This is not only a criminal offence but also it can have serious implications in civil law if a company decides to sue the hacker for any loss as a result of the hacking.

Cyber attacks

An increasing concern to all governments around the word is the role of what is known as cyber attacks. Cyber attacks occur when an individual or group of individuals hack into the computer system of a company, association or even government department and attempts to paralyse the system.

The motivation for carrying out a cyber attack can be vast; groups can range from those seeking information to sell on, to interest groups looking to bring down whole companies, and even terrorist groups looking to paralyse government departments.

It is on account of the vast increases in cyber attacks in recent years that government spending has increased dramatically in a bid to protect national security information. Large companies have also increased their spending on computer protection systems as often the information they hold on their computers about their products or customers is the most valuable asset of their company.

Computer hacking is illegal and carries severe penalties; it has increased dramatically over the last ten years and increasingly more groups, whether companies, governments, or even individuals are having to spend more money on computer defence systems as a result.

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