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Misuse Act of 1990: Protecting Computer Privacy

With the continuing development of computer technology, the Computer Misuse Act 1990 became an important step in protecting the security and privacy of computer and online systems. When computers were first developed and the Internet was first becoming widely used and popular, many people gave little thought to hacking into computer systems. This overlooking of the issue was probably due partly to the fact that hacking was not extremely common and people had yet to see serious consequences result from it.

However, computer users gradually recognized that hacking was a growing problem and threat—and something that should be taken seriously. In order to initiate action against hackers and better protect the data and systems of computer users, the Computer Misuse Act was created in 1990. This act is important because it made a previously legal behavior (hacking) something illegal that could be prosecuted and punished.

Computer Misuse Act 1990: Three Offenses

The Computer Misuse Act 1990 was a landmark creation that dealt with completely new territory—the protection of computer data and systems against unauthorized access and modification. The organization of the act is simple because it all centers on the creation of three new computer-related offenses. The first offense, unauthorized access of computer material, is the most simplistic and harmless, but writers of the act nevertheless thought it important to clearly define it as an illegal action. The basics of this category are that it is now illegal to use someone else’s password (gained either by guessing or stealing it) to look at, but not change in any way, personal data.

The second offense the act created is more serious in nature and has greater consequences: unauthorized access with intent to commit or facilitate the commission of other offenses. This offense involves gaining unauthorized access to a computer system and then using that access to perform other illegal actions, such as transferring money from a person’s bank account to another account.

The third offense described in the act is unauthorized modification of computer material. This offense includes things like computer viruses that modify or change files, hindering proper computer function, deleting files, changing computer setup, etc. This offense seems to be one of the most commonly committed in the present time, as seen in the widespread attack of computer viruses.

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