Legal Beagle by Graeme Edgeler

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Legal Beagle: Cameron Slater: computer hacker?

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  • FletcherB,

    Hmm... this law appears to need changing fairly quickly...

    You are looking smaller at sub-parts of computers--- but if you look in the other direction...

    That caveat, you mention-

    “if a person who is authorised to access a computer system accesses that computer system for a purpose other than the one for which that person was given access.”

    In conjunction with

    computer system—

    (a) means—
    (i) a computer; or
    (ii) 2 or more interconnected computers; or
    (iii) any communication links between computers or to remote terminals or another device; or
    (iv) 2 or more interconnected computers combined with any communication links between computers or to remote terminals or any other device; and

    Seems to STRONGLY suggest that as I and/or my ISP authorise myself to access my computer and it's internet connection.... then it's not illegal for me to access any other computer on that internet.... it's all just one big "computer system" no?

    West Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 887 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Alternatively, that since the interconnected computers on the internet belong to different people and organisations, nobody has the right to grant access and any use of an internet connected computer is an offence.

    I suspect the courts would look for a sensible interpretation, instead.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    For instance, given that "authorization" requires an entity to be in a position of ownership or control, the scope of a "computer system" would generally be limited to that part of a system under the control of a single entity.

    Personally, I think the law should minimise the extent to which it deals with novelties. They should repeal this section, and instead extend s.11 of the Summary Offences Act (Wilful Damage) to include the state of a computer system within the definition of "property".

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Interestingly, the Supreme Court just reinstated the High Court's decision that data on a computer system is 'property': https://www.courtsofnz.govt.nz/front-page/cases/jonathan-dixon-v-r-1

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    And Slater has been back in court this week.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19686 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Sacha,

    And Slater has been back in court this week.

    The more interesting question is whether it means Nicky Hager gets prosecuted. Police originally investigated him, but determined that a charge of receiving couldn't apply because of the Dixon case, as computer files aren't property. From that point, they investigated him as a possible witness only.

    Now that the Supreme Court says computer files can be property, the reason that police have given for abandoning their investigation into Nicky has gone.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    Now that the Supreme Court says computer files can be property, the reason that police have given for abandoning their investigation into Nicky has gone.

    Interesting. The way that reads is that the District and Supreme Courts found it was property mainly because Dixon deleted the video file on the desktop after copying it. Therefore, Base no longer had a copy of a file that should have remained in their possession (which is the whole basis for an argument of theft). If he had only copied it, the outcome might have been different for him.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2930 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    Interesting. Police still have not charged Slater over his alleged role in Labour's database breach either, right? Or his alleged role in procuring a breach of The Standard's backend?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19686 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to nzlemming,

    Schrodinger's property
    (until you delete or leave a copy).

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19686 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    a charge of receiving couldn’t apply because of the Dixon case, as computer files aren’t property

    Would this just apply to Nicky Hagar, or to everyone who's bought, read or been told of the contents of Dirty Politics.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    Dirty Politics

    NZ Fabian Society in association with Canterbury WEA:
    ‘Dirty Politics One Year On’ – Nicky Hager
    At the WEA, 59 Gloucester Street, Friday 23 October, 7.30-9pm
    All welcome!
    Nicky Hager works as an investigative journalist and author. He has written six best-selling books about New Zealand politics, intelligence, public relations and military subjects. His most recent book was Dirty Politics, how attack politics is poisoning New Zealand's political environment, which revealed a damaging style of politics that is harming the country.

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7889 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Sacha,

    Schrodinger's property
    (until you delete or leave a copy).

    Nice.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2930 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    In terms of receiving (by Nicker Hager) there is no offence if:
    any property stolen or obtained by any other imprisonable offence has been returned to the owner http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/1961/0043/latest/DLM330408.html

    Would this be met by someone remaining in possession of their own emails?

    Or does exclusive control constitute a property right which is infringed if somebody obtains a copy of some information?

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    In terms of receiving (by Nicker Hager) there is no offence if:
    any property stolen or obtained by any other imprisonable offence has been returned to the owner

    From memory, you're missing some important words after that. The law is just there to avoid the following: Alice steals something from Bob. If Alice gives it to Charlie, Charlie might be receiving it. But if the Police find it and return it to Bob, and then Bob gives it to Daniel, has Daniel received stolen property? The property has been stolen, and Daniel has received it. But no - the law says a subsequent transfer after Bob gets it back isn't illegal.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    well data works differently from physical property, if you make a copy and if you leave the original you can effectively make an infinite number of further copies from the original ..... that effectively makes the marginal value of one copy 1/infinity or roughly 0 - it's different if you remove the original on the other hand the math really is more like real property.

    Making a copy is simply not the same as stealing the original data - and making a copy is effectively a free operation

    What I'm trying to get at is that the way that we think about and value data probably should be different for data that for physical property .... one might consider the value of the secrecy of some data, the value of data with a known fixed number of copies, etc we already consider the hundreds of copies made in the process of passing something over the internet as effectively "free" - how is a hacked copy made during the process any different?

    Of course come the day of atomic level 3d printers we'll be able to copy anything physical too ... best to get the law right now "He stole my Mona Lisa! but you still have your Mona Lisa .... but he took a copy .... now everyone can have a Mona Lisa"

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2606 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    Surely it is a matter of intent? To gain information for the benefit of someone other than those intended.
    To use a password without the express permission of the "setter" of that password means that you are deceiving the authorisation process so if the intent was to gain advantage by deception then surely this constitutes an offence, yes?.
    Part 10 of the crimes act is full of parts that seem to me to meet this kind of interpretation.
    But then, I Am Not A Lawyer. (I just can't bring myself to use that acronym)

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    Ah, I see. But if, as Paul alludes, you apply the concept of "property" to something that's reproducable, then the logic breaks down a bit.

    If one borrows a lawnmower and give it back, that's conversion and not a crime? Borrowing a document, reading it and giving it back? Borrowing a memory stick, copying it and giving it back?

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • linger, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    In all three scenarios, you’d need to factor in some recognition of the owner’s expectation of exclusive use – or at least rights of permission over use – of their property. Using a car without the owner’s permission is a crime, isn’t it?

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1889 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    Reading a document is a great example - is entering a building and reading a document then leaving theft? how about copying a document off of a computer? they are essentially the same operation

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2606 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    Or does exclusive control constitute a property right which is infringed if somebody obtains a copy of some information?

    Not a lawyer, but I believe that's the basis of copyright. Sharing an unauthorised copy might infringe on that, rather than Crimes Act grounds.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19686 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19686 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to linger,

    Using a car without an owners permission was specifically made a crime when cars became widespread. Using anything other than a vehicle without an owners permission is conversion, and not a crime.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • David Hood,

    So if I copy someones computer file, and the court holds that to be their property, and then I destroy that copy, have I vandalised their property?

    Dunedin • Since May 2007 • 1443 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to David Hood,

    So if I copy someones computer file, and the court holds that to be their property, and then I destroy that copy, have I vandalised their property?

    Technically yes but the intent would be dubious, vandalising or destroying a copy serves no purpose other than to conceal you posession of the document and should be regarded as deception.

    Reading a document is a great example – is entering a building and reading a document then leaving theft?

    No, not theft, the test for theft is to permanently deprive the owner.
    Interesting point though. Under section 230…

    Taking, obtaining, or copying trade secrets
    “(1)Every one is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years who, with intent to obtain any pecuniary advantage or to cause loss to any other person,—
    “(a)dishonestly and without claim of right, takes, obtains, or copies any document or any model or other depiction of any thing or process containing or embodying any trade secret, knowing that it contains or embodies a trade secret; or
    “(b)dishonestly and without claim of right, takes or obtains any copy of any document or any model or other depiction of any thing or process containing or embodying any trade secret, knowing that it contains or embodies a trade secret.

    So it would seem that if you employed someone with a “photographic Memory” to read the formula for a top secret widget then has any law been broken? and if you then manufacture said widget and claimed you were “told by an associate” how to design and manufacture said widget, what law has been broken? Of course it is patently wrong to do such a thing but law is a tricky thing.
    (Patently wrong… fnahh)

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Steve Barnes,

    So it would seem that if you employed someone with a “photographic Memory” to read the formula for a top secret widget then has any law been broken? and if you then manufacture said widget and claimed you were “told by an associate” how to design and manufacture said widget, what law has been broken?

    Seems like the kind of hypothetical that can only be kept aloft by frantically flapping one's willingly suspended critical faculties. I'm thinking of an account by an Australian detective, of attempting to loosen the tongue of a person of interest by driving him around various rural crime scenes. As they sped past a give way sign the guy says "Did you see the 29 bullet holes in that sign?"

    Later the cop tells his boss "I think I've finally met someone with a genuine photographic memory".
    "Bullshit", says his grizzled superior, "My assumption would be that he's the bastard who put those bullet holes there."

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4591 posts Report Reply

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