In Queensland, it is a criminal offence to use a restricted computer without consent.
It is easy to assume that ‘hacking’ a computer is an act conducted from a remote location, requiring an intimate understanding of cyber-security (and how to break it). However, in the eyes of the law, the crime of Computer Hacking and Misuse can be attributed to the contrastingly ‘simple’ conduct of using a restricted computer to view private work files without consent.
Accessing restricted computers
First, what is a restricted computer?
According to the Criminal Code Section 408E, a restricted computer means one that has a certain “device, code or a particular sequence of electronic impulses” that are necessary to gain access to it.
Therefore, bypassing digital security measures to use a computer that does not belong to you means to have accessed a restricted computer.
This act alone commits an offence, however, if the means of access was to retrieve information or cause damage – the consequences become higher.
What are the consequences?
The severity of the penalties will vary depending on the offence at hand. Generally speaking, there are three possible offence levels and charges when it comes to ‘Computer Hacking and Misuse’ as stated in Sections 408E of the Criminal Code Queensland.
A person who uses a restricted computer without the consent of the computer’s controller.
If the person causes or intends to cause detriment or damage, or gains or intends to gain a benefit.
If the person causes a detriment or damage or obtains a benefit for any person to the value of more than $5,000, or intends to commit an indictable offence.
These offences carry a maximum penalty of 2, 5 and 10-years imprisonment respectively.