Computer Crimes


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. 


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