Virus Crimes

On 5:41 PM

Virus Crime

Any deliberate distribution of virus-infected files, with the intent of infecting other people's computer, is unlawful. In Canada, section 430(1.1) of the Criminal Code (Davis and Hutchison 1997, p.112) prohibits intentional use of viruses to cause damage. Part of it is as follows;

Every one commits mischief who willfully

(a) destroys or alters data;
(b) renders data meaningless, useless or ineffective;
(c) obstructs, interrupts or interferes with the lawful use of data; or
(d) obstructs, interrupts or interferes with any person in the lawful use of data or denies access to data to any person who is entitled to access thereto.

(8) In this section, “data” has the same meaning as in section 342.1.

Scotland Yard announced that, in co-operation with the FBI, it arrested a British man in South London on July 23, 2001 on suspicion of breaking the Computer Misuse Act. If found guilty, he could face up to five years in prison.

The 24 year old, who has not been named, has been bailed to appear again at a London police station on September 24. Police authorities had kept the man's arrest secret until now to allow further international investigations.

The Leaves worm first appeared in late June 2001, with some variants posing as a Microsoft security bulletin warning about a dangerous new virus. Users who download the patch will enable a backdoor into their home computers, making them vulnerable to hackers.

Viruses do not recognize national boundaries; a computer in Vancouver could be taken down by a virus written by a youth in a London back bedroom! It is encouraging to see the US and UK authorities working together to help stamp out the virus threat.

The Melissa virus, written by a 31 year old computer programmer, David L Smith, was one of the first viruses to use mass-emailing techniques to spread itself around the world. Since then, many viruses have used similar techniques. Smith pleaded guilty in December 1999 to causing over $80 million dollars worth of damage. He is facing a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail and a possible fine of $400,000. However, he has not yet been sentenced.

The above cases are very clear messages to virus writers. Spreading viruses can result in substantial financial damage. The authorities are prepared to investigate people deliberately spreading viruses and bring them to justice. It's time for people to grow up and start acting as responsible members of the electronic community.

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Vishnu vardhan Reddy Boda is Tech Blogger and Software Engineer.

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