Beware of the Hacker!

A friend was pissed off recently because he was informed by others of unusual posts from his Facebook account. He had been offline for sometime only to be called back with abnormal activity happening on his wall. A rant from him partly read as follows,

“Am sorry friends for all the posts on your walls in my name. Please know that am not responsible. Some fellow has hacked my account and is out to spoil my good name. Am fixing things and hope to find this fellow.”

Well, my friend was not the first one to have their Facebook account hacked. I had seen several complaints from different people, even from other social media platforms. Thing is, the culprits are in most cases never found and so, after the owners of the accounts have fixed things and changed their privacy settings, the incidents are soon forgotten and life goes on.

Hacking is just but one form of cyber crime, maybe the most common and yet the one that people mostly brush off as not being serious, despite the serious consequences that come with it. The definitions of cyber crime vary largely because of the vast forms it takes as well as the jurisdictions. However, what remains constant in those various definitions is the fact that the computer, computer system or internet is often involved either as a target or a medium of committing the crime.[1] In this blog post though, I will restrain myself to hacking as an offence and why any hacker out there should think twice before continuing with their acts.

A straight forward definition of hacking is the use of a computer to gain unauthorized access to data in a system. Norton classifies hacking as a type 1 cyber crime done where hackers take advantage of the flaws in a computer system to carry out a crime.[2] Hackers hack into computer databases for various reasons, including facilitation of identity theft to be able to commit other crimes, to defraud corporations or individuals as well as hacking government databases to expose state secrets.[3]

In the UK, hacking is an offence under the Computer Misuse Act of 1990. This is provided for by Section 1 of the Act which provides for unauthorized access to computer material, which hacking is part of. The Police and Justice Act of 2006 made some amendments to sections 1-3 of the Computer Misuse Act making the maximum sentence the offence of unauthorized access to computer material to be two years. The Indian Information Technology Act of 2000 under section 65 provides for 3 years imprisonment or a fine of up to 2 Iakhs or both for the offence of tampering with computer source documents which hacking is part of.

In the US, hackers are punished for their acts by a number of different crimes depending on the varying circumstances under which the crimes were committed as well as par the different computer crime statutes available. The penalties include imprisonment of between six months and twenty years depending on the statute under which one is found liable and the veracity of the crime as well as fines between $ 1000 to $15000 or both the prescribed fine and imprisonment.

Advances in technology coupled with increased internet use are some of the reasons hacking has become common across the globe. Criminals have thus realized that they need not be physically present at a place to commit whatever crimes they want and are thus hiding behind keyboards and doing so much mischief. Some do it for fun; just to show others how good they are with technology. This is why more and more governments have or are coming up with laws to curb hacking and protect themselves as well as their subjects from the acts of hackers.

Most forms of cyber crime, hacking included have a concept of being borderless, that is, they can be committed in a different country and the effects are felt in another country. With this concept may arise the problem of jurisdiction, especially so where one country lacks provisions on a form of cyber crime. This is the reason international and regional instruments such as the Budapest Convention and the African Union Convention on Cyber Security and Personal Data Protection encourage cooperation between states in the prosecution of cybercrimes and other computer related crimes.

It goes without saying therefore that you ought to take hacking seriously as an offence punishable under law just in case you were not. One may ask why it is an offence, and here is the reason. Hacking is a breach to key human rights such as the right to privacy and right to property because most of the information targeted by hackers is private and confidential which they use against their victims. Also, the property being violated does not belong to the hacker and hence hackers interfere with the real owner’s right to enjoy the ownership and use of their property.

[1] <https://cybercrime.org.za/definition> accessed on 9/3/2017

[2] <https://us.norton.com/cybercrime-definition > accessed on 9/3/2017

[3] <www.inbrief.co.uk/offences/hacking-of-computers/> accessed on 10/3/2017



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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DEBORAH MULEMIAH

Deborah Mulemiah is currently a postgraduate diploma in Law at the Kenya School of Law. Passionate about law and literature.

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