Problems With the Computer Misuse Act

computer keyboard image by Tom Curtis from

The Computer Misuse Act of 1990 was created in the United Kingdom in response to computer hacking and other computer crimes. The Computer Misuse Act has been found by some law enforcement agencies to be ineffective and has been found by others to be potentially problematic from a net neutrality standpoint.


Some have argued that the Computer Misuse Act is too broad, since it defines a computer crime as any unauthorised access to a computer. This broadness was created so that the laws would not become outdated as computer technology advanced. The law has been so ineffective that few individuals have been prosecuted or jailed, according to Law Teacher, a website devoted to legal essays. Although this law has not been hugely effective, it is more useful than not having legislation at all to stop computer abuse.

Denial of Service

The Computer Misuse Act did not cover denial of service attacks, according to Denial of service attacks are efforts by hackers to prevent computer users from using services to which they have legitimate access. One way of preventing service is to flood a network with information. Since networks can only handle so much information, the flood of information causes the network to shut down, which prevents others from accessing the network, according to the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team.


Some find that some of the penalties in the Computer Misuse Act to be harsh. Those who access a network and change settings in a way that do not cause any damages are called victimless hackers, according to Hackers that engage in harmless hacking can receive up to two years in prison. However, some argue that many forms of harmless hacking can actually be harmful by accidentally interfering with the normal operation of the computer system.


Some are concerned that the Computer Misuse Act and other similar acts could serve as a back door for the government to regulate computer and Internet usage in the name of fighting hackers. The fight against hackers might be more effectively won through better antivirus software and firewall security.


Some argue that even though the penalties for computer abuse found in the Computer Misuse Act can be severe, the laws are difficult to enforce, according to Law Teacher. This is because of both the size of the Internet and the sophisticated techniques that many hackers use that help them elude detection. Many hackers are able to use the computers of others to break into computer systems without getting caught.