Computer Misuse Act Offences

Cybercrime is a complex area of law and an accusation of an offence under the Computer Misuse Act potentially carries a significant custodial sentence. Our specialist solicitors can assist you if you are accused of an offence under the Computer Misuse Act 1990.

What is the Computer Misuse Act?

The Computer Misuse Act was passed in 1990 to target cybercrime, IT crime and hacking.

Examples of hacking include:

  • Spammers, who advertise illegally either for their own products or for a legitimate business;

  • Cyber criminals, who steal personal information for monetary gain.

The Computer Misuse Act 1990 has been updated to adapt to follow the constant changes in technology and the growing diversity of threats. In short, the Act makes the following acts illegal:

  • Unauthorised access to computer material;

  • Unauthorised access to computer material with intent to commit or facilitate the commission of a further offence;

  • Unauthorised modification of computer material.  

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What are computer misuse offences?

There are various offences covered by the sections of the Computer Misuse Act 1990.   

Section 1 deals with offence of unauthorised access to computer material. The following must be established for the offence to be proven:

  • One of the computers involved must be in the UK, either the target or the computer being used to target;

  • A person must have caused a computer to perform an action with the intent to secure access to the computer;

  • A person must be aware that the action was unauthorised;

  • A person must intend to secure access to data or information that is held on a computer. It cannot be done accidentally.

 

Many acts are covered by Section 1 of the Computer Misuse Act 1990, for example, guessing a person’s password and accessing their mobile phone is covered by the 1990 Act.

Section 2

Section 2 covers the unauthorised access of computer material with the intention to commit or facilitate the commission of a further offence. This applies even if the further offence is not possible. For example, if a person was to access your online bank account with the intention of stealing, the person could still be guilty of the offence even if your account did not hold any credit.

 

Section 3

Section 3 covers unauthorised acts to impair the operation of a computer. This is also known as a cyber-attack or cyber hacking.

An example of an offence under section 3 of the Computer Misuse Act 1990 would be infecting a computer system with a virus, which can seriously damage computer systems and system files.

 

Section 3A

Section 3A was inserted into the Computer Misuse Act 1990 in 2006.

Section 3A covers the making, supplying, or obtaining of ‘articles’ for use in sections 1, 2 and 3. Under the Act, an article is defined as ‘any program or data held in electronic form’. Essentially, the offence targets those who create or supply viruses or Trojan horses, which can be used to commit an offence under the Act. Those who create or supply the program or data must intend for it to be used in a criminal offence to be prosecuted.

 

Section 3ZA

In 2015, the Serious Crime Act became law, and it created section 3ZA of the 1990 Act. Section 3ZA covers unauthorised acts, which cause or create the risk of serious damage to human welfare or national security.

Penalties under the Computer Misuse Act 1990  

The penalties under the Computer Misuse Act vary depending on the severity of the case and can be brought before either the Magistrates Court or the Crown Court. The penalties for Computer Misuse Act offences are as follows:

  • Up to two years in prison and a £5,000 fine for unauthorised access to a computer.

  • Up to 10 years in prison and an unlimited fine (depending on the severity of the case) if you acquire unauthorised access to a computer to steal data or use the data to commit fraud.

  • Up to 10 years in prison and an unlimited fine for modification of the content of a computer or provide the tools so that others can alter the content.

  • Up to life imprisonment if the computer misuse puts national security at risk, or causes harm to welfare.

How to get in contact?

Contact us now on 020 7404 3004. Our specialist criminal defence solicitors can offer you a free initial consultation. Alternatively, email us at info@ikpsolicitors.com or complete our free online enquiry form at https://www.ikandp.co.uk/about-us.

We are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

If you have been arrested or are due to attend Court imminently and require urgent assistance, please contact us on our emergency number on 07738 802993.