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8 Info. & Comm. Tech. L. 5 (1999)

handle is hein.journals/infctel8 and id is 1 raw text is: Information & Communications Technology Law, Vol. 8, No. 1, 1999

Computer Misuse Law in Singapore
ASSAFA ENDESHAW
Nanyang Business School, Nanyang Avenue, Singapore 639798. email: aendeshaw@ntu.edu.sg
ABSTRACT Adapted from the UK's Computer Misuse Act 1990 from which it borrowed
three types of offences (mere unauthorized access, access with ulterior motive and
modification of the contents of a computer), the Singapore Computer Misuse Act 1993
(CMA) boasted innovative features of its own: intercepting a computer service, abetting
of offence, the making of a compensation order against the wrongdoer, and, until
recently, admissibility of evidence. The CMA has been tested in the courts with
increasing regularity. This Article seeks to review the impact of that law. Section 1
presents the conceptual basis of the law with a view to throwing light on some of the
inconsistencies and difficulties unveiled in practice. Section 2 summarises the scope
of CMA. Section 3 examines the recent amendments to the law. Section 4 then
traces developments in the application of the CMA. The Conclusion summarises the
experiences in Singapore in combating computer misuse and the attempt to modernise
the law for that purpose. It suggests further pointers for reform in light of the shifting
nature of the problem of computer misuse and the necessity of continuous adjustment of
the law.
Introduction
The range of activities that might be considered 'computer misuse' has been
expanding in Singapore, just as everywhere else. On the one hand, as Mr Peter
Chan, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs of Singapore,
revealed in his speech at a January 1998 seminar on 'INFO Security 98: IT
Security Is Everyone's Responsibility', 'From four cases of unauthorized com-
puter access in 1996, it has risen to 27 cases in 1997.' On the other hand, new
forms of 'computer misuse' have arisen in the last few years in connection with
computer networks and the attempt of subscribers to use the Internet in
particular as a means of downloading information (some of which may not be
legally acceptable in Singapore), or accessing foreign sites for illegitimate pur-
poses. An early instance of the 'misuse' of Internet connection was a discovery,
supposedly without opening the relevant files but by looking at their sizes and
names alone, of pornographic material downloaded by a user of Technet, a
network dedicated to research and academic establishments in Singapore.2 The
National Science and Technology Board, which funded and oversaw Technet,
reportedly commented that it was not its 'policy to authorize the opening and
reading of users' personal mail and files on Technet resources, nor will it do so
itself.'3
A similar case was the downloading from the Internet and possession of
obscene films by a former personnel manager (by the name of Lai Chee Chuen).
Apparently, he had been collecting such films since the 1970s and used the

1360-0834/99/010005-29 @ 1999 Taylor & Francis Ltd

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