Computer hacking

December 18, 2018

We have seen hacking in the news a great deal over the last couple of years, for example in the context of the 2016 US Presidential elections and in connection with the extradition case for the hacker Lauri Love.  At the other end of the spectrum there are cases involving police officers unlawfully accessing police computers

What is hacking?

Put simply hacking is the result of using unauthorised access.  The law (Computer Misuse Act 1990) says that hacking is:

Causing a computer to perform any function with intent to secure access to any program or data held in any computer when;

–    that access is unauthorised; and

–    the person knows at the time when he causes the computer to function that that is the case.

Why would someone hack a computer?

For some people it will just be to test their abilities, seeing if they are able to get through high-security measures. Others may want this access to be able to commit further criminal offences; the information obtained could be used for fraud, blackmail or other similar offences.

It is not necessary for a person to intend to use any of the information gained. The simple offence is the intent to gain access to information or data to which you would not usually have access, although see below for other offences.

Are there other offences?

As well as the simple offence set out above (unauthorised access), there are further offences of unauthorised access with intent to commit or facilitate further offences; and unauthorised acts causing or risking serious damage.

What are the penalties?

These offences can be dealt with at the Magistrates Court or the Crown Court depending on the seriousness of the case. The maximum penalty at the Crown Court is two years imprisonment and/or a fine for the simple offence of unauthorised access.

Where the offence is committed with intent to commit further offences, the maximum sentence is  five years, but  if committed with the intent to impair the operation of the computer – so if a person behaves recklessly as to whether the act they perform will impair, prevent access to or hinder the operations of a computer the maximum sentence becomes ten years.

By way of examples, a man who gained access to websites and deleted data to cause inconvenience as revenge for his dismissal was given nine months’ imprisonment.  A man accessed the Welsh Assembly computer system on twenty occasions over a period of a week, reading a number of restricted, sensitive emails, was given four months’ imprisonment.  In another case 2 years imprisonment was imposed for introducing a number of viruses to the internet, causing unknown damage.

In many cases the sentences are much more severe.

How Tuckers Solicitors can help you…

To discuss anything to do with computer hacking please contact us on 020 7388 8333 or email and we will gladly assist.

Our offices are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, ready to deliver immediate and expert legal advice and representation.