Friday, May 4, 2001

Hawaii State Seal

State law
moves to address
technology crime

A draft revision bill focuses
on criminal activity
on computers

By Rosemarie Bernardo

If a person uses a friend's computer and password, they could be prosecuted under a recently revamped computer crimes law, says state public defender Jack Tonaki.

"It's really broadly worded," Tonaki said. "We're not sure what situation or criminal violation they're aiming for."

Legislature The state Legislature passed House Bill 524, House Draft 1, to update the laws relating to prohibited computer activity, nearly a decade after the laws were created.

Tonaki is unsure how the additional statutes will be enforced, however.

One of the new provisions includes unauthorized computer access in the first degree: when a person knowingly accesses a computer or system without authorization in order to obtain information for commercial or private gain, to advance any other crime, to take information valued at more than $5,000 or if the information is already protected against unauthorized disclosure.

The violation is a Class B felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Unauthorized computer access in the second degree is classified as a Class C felony punishable by up to five years in prison, and a third-degree violation is a misdemeanor.

Lance Goto, deputy attorney general of the Criminal Justice Division, said the law needs to be updated because technology keeps changing.

"Computers are being more and more a part of our daily lives. There's far more potential of crimes committed via computer," he said.

The bill was intended to strengthen civil and criminal penalties for computer offenses.

But, Tonaki said, "It's hard to say whether it's a wise change because we don't know exactly what they have in mind."

A committee will be formed to review whether the law allows for comprehensive prosecution of computer crimes without inhibiting legitimate computer activities. The commission may include representatives from the information and communication services division of the Department of Accounting and General Services, the University of Hawaii's Department of Information Technology Services, police departments, prosecuting attorneys and other sectors who are knowledgeable and experienced in criminal law, law enforcement and computer technology.

Tonaki believes the commission should have been put in place before putting the revisions into law.

"When you make a change, you're ensnaring people who don't have a criminal intent," Tonaki added. "It's an area where you have to study before you alter a change."

The commission is expected to present a report to the 2003 state Legislature based on their findings.

Joe Blanco, Gov. Ben Cayetano's executive assistant and technology adviser, said, "The computer has been a tremendous tool to individuals to increase their productivity."

It does not discriminate whether it is being used for good or bad, he said.

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