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Crime and the Computer.

The stated objective of the book is examine in depth the issues which arise in criminal law, evidence, and criminology when a computer is used as a tool or target for crime. In particular, the author focuses on the recent developments which have led to the introduction of the Computer Misuse Act 1990. The Act, which arose from a Bill sponsored by a Private Member, brings the UK into line with the international norm in accepting that computer crimes cannot be effectively combatted by relying on prosecutions under existing offences.

The book falls into three main sections. The first section commences with a discussion of the nature of computer misuse and explores the difficulties in defining, legally or otherwise, what is a computer crime and what is a computer (a notable omission from the book and the Computer Misuse Act 1990). There follows a review of the conflicting evidence on the scale of the problem. Evidence from many sources concerning the incidence of unauthorized access, computer fraud, unauthorized removal of data or programs, unauthorized use of computer time or facilities, and destruction or damage is discussed from a national and an international perspective. As might be expected, no firm conclusions are reached and the section ends with a discussion of whether there is a case for requiring that firms should notify the authorities of all computer crimes. The conclusion that this is not a practical option is hardly surprising, given the confusion over definitions of computer misuse, problems with enforcing such a requirement, and other difficulties.

The second section reviews computer misuse cases and legislation in three chapters covering the major areas of computer misuse. The first chapter examines unauthorized access to and unauthorized use of computers and the impact of the Computer Misuse Act on these forms of computer abuse. Sections include hacking for fun, hacking for further purposes, wiretapping and eavesdropping, Data Protection offences, and the misuse of computer time and facilities. The second chapter looks at fraud and information theft offences which will still probably be prosecuted under existing statutory and common law offences. The coverage includes computer fraud prosecution under the Theft Act and other legislation, the offence of conspiracy to defraud, information theft, and copyrights. The third chapter discusses associated offences including destruction and damage, denial of access to unauthorized users, blackmail, and corruption. The book finishes with a section comprising a chapter on detection, proof, and prosecution and a final chapter on the international dimension, which looks at jurisdiction problems in situations where a terminal in one country is used to commit a computer crime in another, and harmonization of computer misuse legislation.

The approach and content of the book are almost wholly legal, a fact which is not conveyed in the title, and there is little feel for the technical side of how computers work and computer crimes are committed. This leads to a less sure touch in places; for example, the awkward and unconvincing brief description of the main features of a computer, and the statement that |management information systems are set to expand into computer networks extending beyond the organization', which has been true for ten years and is therefore hardly a revelation; and although electronic funds transfer is discussed there is no mention of electronic data interchange, which will surely impact on the rate of computer crime. A further deficiency is the failure to address the problems posed by the collection of evidence in a computer environment. However, such criticisms are only at the margin and not concerned with the main thrust of the text. In my opinion, the book is extremely well researched, is easy to read, and gives a very full coverage of the development of current UK legislation and its international context. The book is essential reading for lawyers interested in the area but businesspeople and criminologists need to appreciate the focus of the work if they are not to be disappointed. The author should be congratulated on this timely and thorough contribution to the literature in this field.
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Author:Collier, Paul
Publication:British Journal of Criminology
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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