Problematic Relationship between Technology and Law (Malicious Software)

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Technological advancement in internet and computing has led to the sprout of new form of crimes no previously addressed by traditional laws. This hence leads to dilemma when certain cases of nuisance arise relating to the computer and internet. The main dilemma regards to ascertaining to what point the nuisance caused to internet and computing services may attract criminal liability. Manufacture and distribution of malicious software is an example of such nuisances and is currently being addressed by the UK law[1].

Malicious Software

Malicious software or malware is a computer program or application that incapacitates other computer applications. This consequently limits the functions of computer systems. The internet serves as a platform where one can disseminate such software to other interlinked computers[2]. The impact may be adverse depending on the magnitude of the infection and the destructive capacity of the malware. Computer malwares are used to vandalize computer software causing system malfunctions. Malware software goes to an extent of damaging computer storage leading to loss of data. This has made malicious software an area of concern since it endangers the functionality of a computer system and can possibly lead to loss of important data and threatens to damage computer hardware[3].

The first legal case concerning malicious software was experienced in US in 1991 where a student by the name Morris arguably released malicious software into the internet. The software known as worm hampered the operation of approximately 6,000 computers and eradication incurred several million dollars to the users[4]. The defendant was prosecuted for the act under the US Computer Fraud and Abuse Act[5]. Although the defendant claimed that he had no malicious intention while designing the software, he was convicted of his actions due to the facts highlighted in United States v. Morris (1991)[6]. In UK, the legislations that regulate malware are addressed in section 3 of the Computer Misuse Act. According to the stipulations in the act, a person is held criminally liable if he performs an act which leads to unauthorized change of contents in a computer system. The Act further holds a person criminally liable where he or she designs a program with intention of illegally modifying contents of a computer system as well as damaging the operations of a computer system. Additionally, the Act spells criminal liability on individuals who use any malicious program to hamper operations

[1] Wall, David. Cybercrime : the transformation of crime in the information age. Cambridge Malden, MA: Polity, 2007, 37.

[2] Aquilina, James M., Eoghan Casey, and Cameron H. Malin. Malware forensics investigating and analyzing malicious code. Burlington, MA: Syngress Pub, 2008, 15.

[3] Ibid, 64.

[4] Kshetri, Nir. The global cybercrime industry economic, institutional and strategic perspectives. Berlin London: Springer, 2010, 141.

[5] US Computer Fraud and Abuse Act 1986

[6] United States vMorris, 928 F.2d 504 (2d Cir. 1991)

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