CMA amendments have "chilling effect" on security research

Experts warn that amendments to Computer Misuse Act could force security researchers out of country.

The updated version of the Computer Misuse Act could have "chilling effects" on how security researchers go about publicising their work, according to experts.

Speaking at a round table debate in London, experts said that the amended act would make it easier for companies to threaten legal action against any security researcher who publicises vulnerabilities in hardware and software.

"It's quite possible that people within the security industry will be served with take-down notices from companies whose flaws have been exposed even if the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) has no intention of prosecuting," said Malcolm Hutty, Head of Public Affairs, London Internet Exchange (Linx).

Hutty also warned that the multitude of websites that carry software tools to carry out penetration testing on networks could also be under threat.

"If you are a good guy you will take the widest possible interpretation of the law and that could mean erring on the side of caution and closing your site down in order to avoid prosecution," added Hutty.

The amendments to the Computer Misuse Act make it a criminal offence to "make, adapt, supply or offer to supply any article intending it to be used to commit, or to assist in the commission of, an offence under section 1 or 3 of the Act or believing that it is likely to be so used."

The clause is intended to outlaw so-called "hacker" tools and this could result in researchers pulling penetration testing tools from websites if could be proved that the tools could also be used for criminal purposes.

Hutty said that many Linux distros sites could also be in trouble as many of them contain tools such as port scanners and tcp dumps used to carry out security audits. "These may be taken out if laws against hacking are enforced by the letter of the law," he said.

Academics said the laws could force security researchers to leave the country.

"This law could potentially push security researchers out of the country," said Dr Richard Clayton, researcher in the Security Group at the University of Cambridge.

Clayton said that the law could be used by some companies to cover up flaws in software.

"People are starting to think about resorting to legal means when dealing with security problems," warned Clayton. "It is going to make us think carefully about talking about security exploits and cautious about publishing tools."

Featured Resources

How to be an MSP: Seven steps to success

Building your business from the ground up

Download now

The smart buyer’s guide to flash

Find out whether flash storage is right for your business

Download now

How MSPs build outperforming sales teams

The definitive guide to sales

Download now

The business guide to ransomware

Everything you need to know to keep your company afloat

Download now

Recommended

Cyber attacks on manufacturing up 300% in a year
Security

Cyber attacks on manufacturing up 300% in a year

11 May 2021
US fuel pipeline hackers reveal their motive
ransomware

US fuel pipeline hackers reveal their motive

11 May 2021
Trend Micro and Snyk team up to combat open source flaws
vulnerability

Trend Micro and Snyk team up to combat open source flaws

10 May 2021
Virtual desktops and apps for dummies
Whitepaper

Virtual desktops and apps for dummies

10 May 2021

Most Popular

KPMG offers staff 'four-day fortnight' in hybrid work plans
flexible working

KPMG offers staff 'four-day fortnight' in hybrid work plans

6 May 2021
16 ways to speed up your laptop
Laptops

16 ways to speed up your laptop

29 Apr 2021
How to move Windows 10 from your old hard drive to SSD
operating systems

How to move Windows 10 from your old hard drive to SSD

30 Apr 2021