The computer whiz links up with a private computer system through a modem --- a device used to 'link up' computers over telephone lines so that they can 'talk' to each other. A user name and password are promptly typed in and then instantly logs onto the host system. The computer whiz has managed to 'hack' into the private system. Unless he or she has a paid membership, this action is illegal and is considered a 'computer crime'. A computer crime can be defined as "the destruction, theft, or unauthorized or illegal use, modification, or copying of information, programs, services, equipment (hardware), or communications networks."1 This essay will deal with three types of computer crime -- hacking, phreaking, and software piracy. All pertinent parts of the Act and Criminal Code of Canada will be outlined in this essay, including the punishments.
Hacking is the "misuse of a computer to illegally access private computer networks."2 Hackers employ many crafty techniques in order to gain access to the host computer system or network. Once they have obtained the correct password or access code needed for entry , they can enter the host computer system with many commands available. Then they can perform activities such as 'eavesdropping', 'diddling', and 'super zapping'. Eavesdropping is the viewing of private or personal information stored on the computer system. For example, a hacker can view credit card numbers or even top secret government information. Diddling is intentionally changing information stored on a computer or network. For example, a hacker could change school grades, erase telephone bills, or embezzle funds.
Superzapping involves illegally bypassing passwords and other security measures that limit access to computer files and then stealing the information. Furthermore, some people destroy data on the host systems. They infect the data with infectious programs called viruses and trojans. Viruses can replicate, infect and destroy data at preset times. For example, the Michaelangelo virus is set to go off on March 6th, which would then destroy the data on the computer. Trojans are like a disguise for a destructive program which is sometimes inserted onto the host system and upon executing it, the trojan will destroy or disrupt the system and its data. All these crimes are dealt with in the Criminal Code of Canada. In Section 322 (1)(a), under the heading Theft, a hacker can be charged for the theft of information. Furthermore, in Section 342.1, under the heading Unauthorized Use of Computer, the hacker can be charged for accessing and using the host system without authorization. This crime can be punishable on an indicted or summary conviction. Under Section 536 (2), the court decides whether or not the offence is serious. If the crime is serious, the person is guilty of an indictable offence. He or she is liable for a prison term up to ten years. The court may decide the person is guilty of a summary conviction. According to Section 787 (1), he or she is liable for a fine up to two thousand dollars or imprisonment for six months, or both. Finally, in Section 430 (1.1), under the heading Mischief, anyone destroys or alters data making it useless, meaningless or ineffective, can be convicted of an indictable or summary offence. According to Section 430 (5), he or she faces imprisonment up to ten years for an indictable offence, or a summary conviction with the same punishment as mentioned before.
Another computer crime is 'phreaking'. Phreaking is a method used by phreakers to obtain free long distance calls. They use a device called a 'blue box' or 'black box' which produces a tone at a certain frequency which then allows the phreaker to make a free long distance call. This can also be accomplished by a computer with the correct type of software. This abuse of the public telecommunications network is illegal and it is dealt with in the Criminal Code of Canada.
In Section 326 (1)(b), under the heading Theft, the person, can be charged for illegally obtaining any telecommunications service or facility. In Section 327 (1), under the heading Possession of Device to Obtain Telecommunication Facility or Service, if the person sells or distributes any device that is primarily used to obtain telecommunication facility or service without paying, then he or she is guilty of an indictable offence and can be imprisoned up to two years. Finally, in Section 184 (1), anyone that wilfully intercepts a private communication is guilty of an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for up to five years.
Software piracy is "the unauthorized copying of programs protected by copyright."3 This is a common offence. It can range from copying a copyrighted program for personal use to actually selling copies of the original copyrighted program for a profit. This crime costs the programmers and publishers billions of dollars a year. Copy- protection and password protection schemes have been implemented to curb this crime. This crime is dealt with under the Criminal Code of Canada. In Section 387, under the heading Fraudulent Sale of Real Property, anyone selling unregistered software is guilty of an indictable offence and can be imprisoned for a term up to two years.
Furthermore, since computer technology is advancing so rapidly, the laws must also change to accommodate them. In 1988, Bill C-60 (Copyright Act of 1988) was introduced. It deals with nine issues, "including protection for computer program as literary works, exhibition rights for visual artists, the abolition of compulsory licenses for sound recordings, increased criminal sanctions for commercial piracy, extension of the collective exercise of copyright and the establishment of a new Copyright Board."4 Concerning computer crimes, it made pirating of software illegal. Under this Act, anyone selling, trading, or distributing copyrighted software is committing a crime. If the court decides that the person is guilty of a summary conviction, he or she can be fined up to $25 000, or an imprisonment term of up to six months, or both. If the court decides that the person is guilty of an indictable offence, then he or she can be fined up to one million or imprisoned for up to five years or both.
Hacking, phreaking, and software piracy are all types of computer crimes. These crimes are all dealt with in the Criminal Code of Canada and in Acts such as the Copyright Act of 1988. It is the responsibility of the courts to interpret and apply the laws. They decide whether the offence is indictable or a summary. If the offence is serious then the person is guilty of an indictable offence and is subject to greater punishments. Consequently, with the rapid change in computer technology, the emergence of new computer crimes is inevitable. However, the ever present rule of law will always stay intact.
Robert L. Perry, Computer Crime (New York: Grolier Company, 1986), p. 2. 2
Ibid, p. 59. 3
Ibid, p. 60. 4
Lillian MacPherson, Creators' Rights vs. Users' Needs (Edmonton: Legal Resource Centre), p. 7.