Laura Trapnell | 22nd July 2015

The Ashley Madison data hacking news!

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Laura Trapnell | 22nd July 2015

The Ashley Madison data hacking news!


Political and provocative news abounds this week and none more likely to cause division of opinion is the data hacking of the Ashley Madison online ‘affair’ site. Leaving aside the moral judgments being cast on the data subjects, there are several legal implications to this data hacking that are really not controversial at all.

Quite simply, the hacking of data in this manner is a criminal offence under section 1 of the Computer Misuse Act 1980 which states quite clearly that:

1.Unauthorised access to computer material

(1) A person is guilty of an offence if—

  • he causes a computer to perform any function with intent to secure access to any program or data held in any computer or to enable any such access to be secured;
  • the access he intends to secure, or to enable to be secured, is unauthorised; and
  • he knows at the time when he causes the computer to perform the function that that is the case.

(2)The intent a person has to have to commit an offence under this section need not be directed at—

  • any particular program or data;
  • a program or data of any particular kind; or
  • a program or data held in any particular computer.

(3)A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable—

  • on summary conviction in England and Wales, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum or to both;
  • on summary conviction in Scotland, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum or to both;
  • on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not .exceeding two years or to a fine or to both.

I think the law is equally clear when it comes to blackmail…..