How does New Zealand law define it?

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“Cybercrime” is a term we hear all the time, but what exactly is it, and how does New Zealand define it in legal terms?

New Zealand Police define cybercrime in two distinct ways. The first refers to technology as a target, while the second refers to technology as a means of attack.

What is “pure cybercrime”?

According to the Crimes Act 1961, sections 249 to 252, the first term used by the police relates to crimes involving computers.

This definition further states that cybercrime can only be perpetrated using ICT or the Internet and must specifically target a computer or network, regardless of the overall intent.

This type of crime includes computer intrusion, attack on a computer system and malicious software.

“Computer intrusion” is probably better known as “hacking”, which according to New Zealand Police means “unauthorized direct or indirect access to a computer system which may include a desktop computer, laptop, smartphone, tablet, server or other device. whether connected to the Internet or not.

However, the term can also refer to non-physical access, such as entering a social network, email, or online banking account.

An attack on a computer system is defined as “any type of offensive act that targets computer data, information, infrastructure, network, cloud or other personal computing device”.

What constitutes a crime under this definition can vary, including acts such as installing malware on a personal computer, to causing serious damage to a country’s critical national infrastructure.

Additionally, while it may be an intentional act, considered a crime, it may also be a reckless act performed without authorization and causing damage, deletion, modification or other interference. with as well as the deterioration of any data or software of any computer. system.

Finally, malicious software, or malware, refers to “programs capable of performing tasks, often quietly without being detected by the user”.

This includes several offenses such as software that can record all keystrokes on a computer, take screenshots of and access saved files and passwords, encrypt personal files to prevent access of the user, allow unobtrusive remote access to your computer and allow offenders to record from your webcam.

What is “cybercrime”?

Cybercrime is classified as any criminal act that could be committed without ICT or the Internet, but is aided by the use of this technology.

Police include crimes such as online scams, threats to life or public safety, and possession or distribution of objectionable material in this definition.

Criminal charges

Sections 249, 250 and 252 of the Crimes Act 1961 detail, in particular, accessing a computer system for dishonest purposes, damaging or interfering with a computer system and accessing a computer system without authorisation, respectively.

“This type of offense covers a wide range of offenses ranging from business email compromise (BEC), ransomware attacks, distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks to system access for steal intellectual property”, detective from the New Zealand Police High Tech Crime Group. said Master Sergeant Greg Dalziel.

According to data from the Evidence Based Policing Center from January 2017 to April 2022, 799 offenses under these sections resulted in legal action.

Broken down into categories, access to a computer system for dishonest purposes was the subject of 113 offenses committed in 2017, 142 in 2018, 118 in 2019, 151 in 2020, 108 in 2021 and 26 in the first four months. of 2022.

Intent to gain access to a computer system for dishonest purposes recorded 16 offenses in 2017, 10 in 2018, 6 in 2019, 19 in 2020, 15 in 2021 and 3 so far in 2022.

Willful or reckless damage or interference with a computer system accounted for three offenses in 2017, three in 2018, one in 2019, none in 2020, one in 2021 and one so far this year.

13 offenses in 2017 related to access to a computer system without authorization, including 17 in 2018, 10 in 2019, 8 in 2020, 12 in 2021 and 3 in 2022 to date.

Dalziel notes that the term “procedure” refers to each separate occasion in which police dealt with an alleged offender for one or more crimes.

He adds that although prosecutions are regularly ranked according to the most serious offense for which the offender is treated on a particular occasion, this data takes into account all cases where at least one of the offenses provided for in Articles 249, 250 or 252 was involved, whether or not it was the most serious offence.

The dark web

As far as the dark web is concerned, crimes related to it fall under section 7 of the Crimes Act 1961, which gives the police jurisdiction where the offense has a specific connection to New Zealand.

According to the law, “for the purposes of jurisdiction, where an act or omission forming part of an offence, or any event necessary for the commission of an offence, occurs in New Zealand, the offense shall be deemed to have been committed in New Zealand, whether or not the person charged with the offense was in New Zealand at the time of the act, omission or event.”

However, Dalziel says that offenses involving the dark web are generally not computer crimes as defined in sections 249 to 252, but rather relate to the buying and selling of items whose possession is illegal under New Zealand law.

“As such items will cross the border, there may also be an investigation by the New Zealand Customs Service.”

When asked if anyone in New Zealand had been charged with dark web crimes, Dalziel said he was aware of cases involving the dark web in Aotearoa and most of them involved the purchase or sale of illegal contraband.

“A number of prosecutions have taken place although these cases are coded in relation to the illicit article,” says Dalziel.

“For example, the importation of cannabis seeds would be an offense under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975.

“The dark web is also associated with child sexual abuse material and a specific team within the police triages these cases when they are reported.”

Who to contact

Although the term “cybercrime” is quite broad in its definition, police say the procedure for reporting incidents is the same as for any other offence: dial 111 in an emergency or, for non-emergencies, contact the police on 105, online or in person.

Additionally, concerns about online security or digital communications can be escalated to Netsafe and cybersecurity issues to CERT NZ.

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