Rash of "accidental hacking" cases anticipated

The new Crimes Amendment Bill outlaws hacking, but at least one security professional is gearing up for a wave of 'accidental hacking cases'.

The new Crimes Amendment Bill outlaws hacking, but at least one security professional is gearing up for a wave of "accidental hacking cases".

The Crimes Amendment Bill introduces a number of offences including unauthorised accessing of a computer or network. Shane Bates, CEO of Bates Forensics, expects to have plenty of work helping defend people who are convicted of hacking a network.

"We'll have a rash of cases to defend. You've got to have electronic evidence that's admissible and in many cases it won't be admissible and the case will be thrown out on a technicality."

Bates, who also runs a separate IT security firm, says electronic forensics will be a boom business once the bill has been enacted because companies who have been hacked, attacked, had websites defaced or lost data will need to create a chain of evidence that can be introduced in court if their cases are to proceed.

Bates says the bill would make it illegal to connect to a network without the network operator's permission, which would make connecting to a wireless LAN illegal. Last week IDG staff took a laptop with a wireless card for a walk around Auckland's central business district and discovered nearly 30 wireless LANs running with minimal security. A wireless network doesn't wait for the user to connect - it reaches out and asks if they want to or, in one case, didn't even ask but simply connected the laptop to the W-LAN.

Averill Parkinson, partner with Auckland-based law firm Clendon Feeney, says breaches of the new law may not be the end user's fault.

"There's always the argument that if you leave it open then anyone's authorised to access it." She likens it to someone entering a garden to get to the front door.

"There's an implied licence for people to walk up to your front door and knock on it. Technically they could be trespassing when they walk through your front gate, but unless you put up a sign that says you can't then you're technically allowed to walk in."

Parkinson says it comes down to the question of intention, something that is fundamental to New Zealand law.

"To take the extreme case, to be convicted of murder you must have intended to kill someone" as opposed to it being an accident.

"It's important from a civil rights point of view because it offers differentiation between someone intending to commit a crime and accidentally doing so or behaving in a reckless manner and committing a crime."

She says any user who accidentally connects to a wireless network, say when looking for a hotspot, must be careful as to what they do subsequently to finding themselves in someone else's network.

"If they then use the network to surf the net or whatever, that becomes the point of difference."

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