The update has been long in coming. The existing law the Computer Misuse Act is now over 15 years old and legal experts have questioned whether it adequately outlaws Denial of Service attacks. This is an attack in which a web or email server is deliberately flooded with information to the point of collapse.
But when a court cleared a teenager last November on charges of sending five million emails to his former employer, because the judge decided that no offence had been committed under the Act, the need for amendment became obvious.
An update was attempted in 2002 and on two subsequent occasions, each time as a Private Members' Bill. This type of Bill rarely succeeds; but last November's Bill by Tom Harris, Labour MP for Glasgow South, has won Government support. His provisions to amend the 1990 legislation are included in the new Police and Justice Bill.
This clarifies that all means of interference with a computer system are criminalized and expands the 1990 Act's provisions on unauthorised modification of computer material to cover someone who does an unauthorised act in relation to a computer with "the requisite intent and the requisite knowledge."
The Bill also increases the penalties that may be imposed.
According to the BBC, MPs from across the House welcomed the provisions during the Bill’s first reading on Monday, but criticised other parts of the Bill, which deal with Government powers in respect of the police.
The Bill now goes on to a second reading.