Government must update cybercrime laws, say experts

Summary:The government has been accused of sitting on its hands rather than making the Computer Misuse Act relevant

The government "no longer has an excuse" to delay updating the Computer Misuse Act to include denial of service attacks in the light of this week's email bomber trial, according to legal experts.

A judge at Wimbledon Magistrates Court dismissed a charge brought a teenager who allegedly sent five million emails to his ex-employer, crashing its server. The judge ruled that denial-of-service (DoS) attacks are not illegal under the CMA.

The Home Office has repeatedly indicated in the past that the government is aware that the Computer Misuse Act needs to be strengthened, but nothing has yet been done.

Derek Wyatt, MP and chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Internet Group, chastised the government for failing to strengthen the CMA.

Wyatt called for the government to bring in legislation criminalising DoS attacks as soon as possible.

"It's time they found a way of including the small changes necessary in a Home Office bill or helped with a Private Members bill," said Wyatt.

The Home Office indicated it was aware the CMA was inadequate at present.

"The government is aware of the issue," a Home Office spokesperson told ZDNet UK on Thursday.

The government is looking at "strengthening the CMA, including increasing the maximum penalties [for cybercrime] and clarifying that all means of interference with a computer system are criminalised," the Home Office spokesperson added.

The Home Office made a similar statement to ZDNET UK back in 2002.

"It is no longer an excuse just to say they are aware of the issue," Wyatt said.

The law has not yet been updated because there has not been a suitable legislative vehicle, the Home Office said.

Government must "close the loophole"
Experts agree that the outcome of this trial highlights inadequacies in CMA.

"The ruling confirms what many people have long suspected: that DoS attacks are not caught by the CMA," said Struan Robertson, senior associate at solicitors firm Pinsent Masons and editor of Out-Law.com.

"It's necessary to amend the existing CMA to make it an offence to deliberately impair the function of another computer. Although the act is robust and has withstood the test of time, DoS is one problem that has been identified as falling through the cracks," said Robertson.

Robertson called for government action to close...

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Topics: Security

About

Tom is a technology reporter for ZDNet.com, writing about all manner of security and open-source issues.Tom had various jobs after leaving university, including working for a company that hired out computers as props for films and television, and a role turning the entire back catalogue of a publisher into e-books.Tom eventually found tha... Full Bio

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