Criminal law tackles computer fraud and misuse

David Bainbridge*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Computer Misuse Act 1990 was intended to deal with perceived weaknesses in the criminal law in relation to computer fraud and misuse. Particular issues concerned unauthorised access to computer material, unauthorised modification of computer programs and data and, in terms of computer fraud, the problem that it did not appear possible at law to deceive a machine and doubts about the applicability of the law of attempts to computer fraud. Since the 1990 Act came into force, there have been relatively few prosecutions under the Act but new forms of abuse have appeared such as the use of spyware and the activity of 'phishing'. Online fraud is now a major worry with fraudsters obtaining personal details with which to carry out their acts of fraud. Apart from the problem with deception, there were other defects in the fraud offences in the Theft Acts 1968 and 1978 and it was decided to replace these with a new Fraud Act. Further legislative changes to the Computer Misuse Act 1990 are in the pipeline. These will strengthen the Act and insert in new offences in relation to making, supplying or obtaining articles to be used to carry out the offences of unauthorised access and modification.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)276-281
Number of pages6
JournalComputer Law and Security Report
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 22 May 2007


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