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Passage of Bill bad news for hackers


Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Justice
Media Statement

4 July 2003

Passage of Bill bad news for hackers


Police will be better able to combat computer-related crimes following the passing of the Crimes Amendment Bill (No 6) today, Justice Minister Phil Goff said.

The Bill, which comes into force on October 1, updates most of the property offences in the Crimes Act, many of which have not been changed since the Act was passed in 1961.

"The Bill strengthens criminal law in many ways, and gives the Police and Serious Fraud Office more effective laws to deal with offending, especially in the area of computer-related crime," Mr Goff said.

"New Zealand is one of the few Western countries that does not have specific computer offences. At present hackers can only be convicted of general criminal offences such as theft and criminal damage.

"This Bill cracks down on hackers by creating offences that make it illegal to intercept, access, use or damage data held on computers without proper authorisation. People attempting to put an Internet site off-line, or to change or delete someone else's data, will face maximum sentences of seven years' jail.

"The Bill also creates new offences relating to theft and fraud committed by the use of computers, and makes it illegal to sell, distribute or possess computer hacking programmes."

Mr Goff said important amendments to Police interception warrant provisions would assist in the fight against organised crime.

"Currently the Police, when acting under an interception warrant, can only intercept oral communications and cannot use any intercepted written communications such as text messages, e-mails or faxes.

"The Bill allows that, and makes it clear that a law enforcement agency is not committing an offence if they have a legal basis, such as a search warrant, for accessing a computer.

"However the Bill provides safeguards to ensure that personal privacy is balanced appropriately with the rights of the State to protect its citizens, by requiring Police to specify a person, place, and specific electronic address, phone number or similar facility when applying for judicial authorisation for an interception warrant.

"One of the purposes of the safeguards is to ensure that only communications of the individuals being targeted are subject to interception activity.

"The Bill also strengthens privacy interests by making it illegal for unauthorised people to intercept e-mails and faxes not intended for them. Under current law, it is only illegal to intercept oral communication."

Mr Goff said other important amendments made by the Bill were:

- The new offence of 'Taking, obtaining or copying trade secrets', which covered the wrongful acquisition of documents, plans, models or diagrams of commercial value with the intention of obtaining financial gain;

- Amending the offence of Burglary by replacing the phrase ‘breaking and entering’ with entering ‘without authority’, thereby removing technical arguments as to what constitutes a ‘break’ and effectively combining burglary and unlawful entry offences;

- Broadening the offence of Blackmail to apply to any threat of disclosure and to cover a threat to cause serious damage to property or endanger the safety of any person;

- The offence of False Pretences is replaced with 'Obtaining by deception or causing loss by deception', which covers a broader range of financial benefits and introduces the element of ‘causing loss’;

- A number of offences have also been broadened to include liability for reckless, as well as intentional, conduct.

ENDS

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