The Computer Crime Law in Ireland

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The Computer and Digital Legislation a forensic investigator should know about in Ireland

Abstract

Criminal law varies in different countries and temp to deal with computer–related crime. Due to the ever-changing and the sophisticated form of information technology, new type of computer crime surfaces everyday and is threatening the functionality of the system as an asset of a borderless information society. In order to manage and protect this vibrant digital age, new legislation is also put in place to combat these crimes. The existing laws might have been suitable for the old traditional computer crime; the use of a mobile device to denial your keylogg access to your car may have no legal reference in any formal computer crime law. This paper will point out some of the known legislations that exist in Ireland and the EU relating to computer crime, and the awareness in a computer forensic discipline.

Introduction

With the vast amount of business documents being written on computers, the popular use of email, transaction of business on the internet, computer keep most civil litigation evidence that exist in our present day. It is unimaginable for any business of a sizable scale to function properly, these days, without the use of computer or any form of computing device. Unfortunately, what was designed to help solve almost all problem that exist, (being social networking, e-commerce, entertainment, personal dairy, communication), is posing a great threat to the society that should benefit from it. Imagine a company that buys used cars online and re-sell them to make profits, provides its employees with fast internet access. An employer search through the usual websites and found an interesting car at cheap price, instead of doing the transaction unbehalf of the company, he bought the car for himself. The manager saw him with the car the next day and raised suspicion. He then consulted a forensic investigator to handle the case. Special procedures may have to be carried out during a computer forensic investigation in order that any information gathered is eligible for use in a court of law. The investigation revealed that he used his account to log on to the work computer for the deal during working hours. The investigator found something else, a child pornographic material on his computer. Is this a computer crime? or an abuse of company’s policy?, or something else?. Would the evidence found by an investigator contracted to do one job but did more be accepted in the court, if indicted? Would the Irish Data Protection Act of 1988 protect his secret from prosecution? or face Child Traffic and Pornographic Act 1998? Due to the fact that computer crime is generally new, specialized legislation is in place for some computer and digital specific criminal behaviour, and forensic investigators should be aware of this.

The Irish Computer Crime Law

The Irish Legislations that are relevant in the area of computer crime are the Criminal Damage Act, 1991, and the recent Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act, 2001. The Criminal Damage Act, 1991, Section 2(1) introduced the offence of damage to property, defined as – “a person who without lawful excuse damages any property belonging to another intending to damage any such property or being reckless as to whether any such property should be damaged is guilty of an offence”. Property includes data and damage to data includes the addition, alteration, corruption, erasure, or movement thereof, or introduction of a virus therein, which causes damage. It shall be noted that the offence requires the absence of “lawful excuse” and, in addition, requires the accused to act with intent or recklessness. Summary conviction or on indictment carries different penalties. On summary conviction the penalties are a fine of up to €1,270 or imprisonment for up to 12 months, while on indictment; the penalties are a fine of up to €12,700 or imprisonment for up to 10 years, or...
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