Standard means of legal redress is needed

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 March, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 22 March, 2004, 12:00am

More needs to be done to bolster existing information technology laws to address the issue of viruses, according to Peter Bullock, a partner at Masons Information & Technology Law Group.

'First of all, there is no legal definition of what a virus is,' he says.

'It has to come into one of the better known descriptions of a legal wrong and in Hong Kong it is very limited because the Crimes Ordinance talks about criminal damage and things like that.'

Mr Bullock says that Hong Kong does not have any specific definitions except for a few sections in the Crime Ordinance 'which is reflective of the Computer Misuse Act of 1990 in Britain'.

But even if the Crimes Ordinance is to follow the Act in wording, the definition still falls short of e-mail-borne viruses.

'The Act was an early attempt to deal with hacking and this was pre-internet days,' he adds.

Mr Bullock believes more needs to be done and 'there has been quite a lot of talk in Hong Kong recently on this subject'.

But he believes it is still early days.

'The problems for e-mail-borne viruses, for example, are jurisdiction and extradition, and although, through the co-operation of the international police forces you can find the culprits, it is still a big legal challenge,' he says.

Mr Bullock believes there is a need for a standard means of legal redress and more international co-operation if effective legal challenges are to be mounted against virus writers.

'However, we are a long way off any of that and, frankly, there are more pressing things to do in the Legislative Council at the moment,' he says.

But a cohesive piece of legislation dealing with all these problems will be 'most welcome'.