MPs urged to overhaul Computer Misuse Act

MPs will be told to consider major surgery on the aging Computer Misuse Act when the All Party Internet Group publishes its report on cybercrime next week

The Computer Misuse Act -- which became law many years before the Internet entered the mainstream -- is a failure and needs a major overhaul, according to some analysts.

But the All Party Internet Group (APIG), which will publish the result of an investigation into cybercrime next week, has indicated that it is likely to recommend just a "tweak" to bring the Act up to date.

In April, APIG held a number of public hearings at the House of Commons to listen to evidence from law enforcement agencies and members of the security industry.

During the hearings, APIG's chairman Derek Wyatt said his initial impression was that the law would only require an amendment rather than a major rework. But one week before the report is due to be published, some analysts are hoping that after months of deliberation, the MPs will recommend a complete overhaul.

Alan Lawson, a researcher at analyst firm Butler Group, said the CMA has "in recent years become a failure" because it is "not seen as a viable tool for prosecution".

According to Lawson, the CMA does not address enough computing issues and is being ignored in favour of more traditional legislation. Additionally, he said that because computer crimes are evolving at a furious pace, the law should be "as flexible as the criminals it is targeting".

"IT law in this country is now being seen as being weak. In fact, the recent anti-spam law has proven so poor that spammers are actually moving to the UK because we are now seen as a safe haven for their activities," Lawson said.

John Cheney, chief executive of email security firm BlackSpider Technologies, said the CMA and the European anti-spam laws have not been very good at solving the spam problem. He suggests that combining the CMA and anti-spam laws would be a good start.

"None of the spam legislation has made any difference, so it would be good to try and bring the CMA together with some of the other aspects of IT security, such as the spam laws, and deal with them together," Cheney said.