Hacking bill gets another chance

A long-delayed bill, which will criminalize interference with computer systems, may become law this week.

Parliament will sit under urgency this week, meaning the Crimes Amendment Bill No 6 could get its third and final reading. A second reading of the bill was completed last week, but it subsequently sank back down the order paper.

If headway cannot be made this week, the bill will run into a two-week recess. Green MP Keith Locke says if the government tries to take it through its third reading this week it will attempt to thwart it. “Because we think it needs more debate,” he says.

Justice Minister Phil Goff is proposing amendments in a supplementary order paper which make it clear that normal maintenance of a communications facility, such as an ISP ensuring smooth working of its services, will not be regarded as illegal “interception”.

The provision was changed to require that the software be “promoted as being useful for a crime”. The minister proposes diluting this even further by adding that the seller, to offend, has to know or be “reckless as to whether” it will be used for the commission of a crime.

Most debate, however, is likely to center again on the exemptions to interception provisions for police and intelligence services on production of an appropriate warrant. Locke intends to push for removal of this provision — which he acknowledges has little chance of being accepted — or for an amendment requiring periodic audit of warrants. Australia, he says, has such a system.