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Policies & Standards

Computer Crime

New Massachusetts Computer Crime Law
The Massachusetts legislature has enacted, and on October 26 the Governor signed into law, new legislation designed to punish and help deter several forms of computer crime. Based upon the recommendations of a special Computer Crime Commission established by the Governor in 1992, the new law plugs several significant holes in Massachusetts Law.

Until now, although it was a crime to completely remove data from a computer system without authorization, damaging data that is left on a system and "snooping" in systems were not prohibited. The new law changes this.

Specifically, the new law:

  • Prohibits unauthorized access to any computer system, either directly or by network or telephone. The law provides that the use of password authorization systems to control access to a computer system puts people on notice that their access is unauthorized if they don't have a legitimate password.
  • Amends the criminal vandalism statue to make it clear that electronically stored or processed data is "property", the destruction or corruption of which is illegal.
  • Prohibits the thefts of commercial computer service.

The law also makes two improvements to Massachusetts procedural law that will allow easier prosecution of computer-related offenses with less disruption to legitimate business. Until now businesses whose systems had been violated were deterred from actively prosecuting the offense because they might be faced with prosecutors having to seize originals of their computer and data files. The new law makes electronic copies of these files admissible, thus allowing a business to maintain use of its systems for ongoing operations. The new law also provides that computer crime may be prosecuted and punished either in the county where the perpetrator was physically located at the time he or she committed the crime, or in the county where the computer system and data that was accessed or corrupted were located at the time of the violation. This means, for example, that a hacker accessing a Massachusetts-based business's computers in Massachusetts from another state would be susceptible to prosecution in Massachusetts.

Additional information on the new law, which is effective January 24, 1995, or on other computer-related legal issues, can be obtained from Greg Moore (617)-951-7370) who was a member of the Computer Crime Commission.

November 18, 1994

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