A new Bill to deal with computer crime will give wide powers of search and seizure, backed by a warrant, to an expert or police officer to obtain any information in the possession of any service provider and to intercept any wire or electronic communication.
However, the need for a warrant is exempted in cases where the investigations need to be conducted urgently, there is likelihood of the evidence being lost, destroyed, modified or rendered inaccessible and there is a need to maintain confidentiality regarding the investigation.
These provisions are contained in the Bill titled Computer Crime Bill presented to Parliament last week to provide for the identification of computer crime and to provide for the investigation and enforcement of such crimes.
Investigations under this Act will be carried out with the assistance of a panel of experts consisting of not more than 12 persons who possess adequate knowledge and expertise in the field of information technology.
The Bill lists a large number of computer crimes which will make securing unauthorized access to a computer, doing any act to secure unauthorised access in order to commit an offence and causing a computer to perform a function without lawful authority all punishable offences carrying heavy fines and imprisonment .
Other offences under this Bill includes specific acts of computer misuse such as impairing the operation of any computer, computers systems or the reliability of any data or information held in any computer.
A person, who destroys, deletes or corrupts or adds to, moves to alter any information held in any computer and introduce a computer virus to any computer or falsify material or any information held in any computer, too can be punished under the new legislation.
The fines imposed for those found guilty of committing these crimes will range from Rs100,000 to Rs. 300,000 and for prison terms between six months and three years.
The Bill also lists several other punishable offences such as intentionally causing a computer to perform any function knowingly or having reason to believe that such function will result in danger or imminent danger to national security, the economy or public order.
Causing loss or damage to any person or institution by a computer function also carries a heavy fine of between Rs. 300,000 and Rs. 500,000 and prison terms ranging from one year to a maximum of five years.
The Bill also provides for persons who are convicted under this Act to award compensation where it is established that as a result of the offence loss or damage has been caused to any person or institution or the offender or any other person had monetarily gained.
Crimes unit to be set up
A Computer Crimes Unit will be set up shortly by the Government’s Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA), to enforce the computer crimes law once it is passed in Parliament, ICTA legal advisor Jayantha Fernando said.
He said that the ICTA will train a pool of experts for the unit.
He said currently police do not have the proper software and hardware tools, or the investigation techniques, to deal with computer crimes. The need to develop expertise in the criminal justice system on the issue was also mentioned.
ICTA the apex government body involved in ICT policy and direction, is in discussion with police authorities and other relevant agencies, including universities, on setting up the unit. The funding process is currently being finalised.
Mr. Fernando also said that on the whole, the ICT industry will benefit once the Bill is passed, since it will provide safeguards against the criminal use of computers.