Computers group seeks better security for data

THE authorities should pay more attention to the confidentiality of computer data, according to Hong Kong Computer Society computer and law working group chairman Matthew Lee.

He said that only certain aspects of intellectual property law were being regulated by legislation, such as copyrights, patents and trademarks.

There had never been a statute to regulate on confidential information, Mr Lee was quoted as saying by the Hong Kong Industrialist, a monthly publication of the Federation of Hong Kong Industries.

Mr Lee, who works in the City Polytechnic's department of information systems, said confidential information was being treated under common law, which was constantly evolving.

He said a more coherent approach should be taken by the authorities towards intellectual property.

Although the Computer Crimes Ordinance, enacted last April, was intended to ease concern about technology abuse, there was no specific law protecting information stored in computers, Mr Lee said.

The ordinance was only introduced after a lengthy debate about what constituted computer theft.

According to the report in the Industrialist, theft implied permanent deprivation, which did not directly apply to data copying, although it might be applicable in relatively rare cases of data destruction by hackers.

Hackers are computer users who are able to gain unauthorised access to computer systems.

Some are motivated simply by the satisfaction of breaking into systems, but some inflict damage by destroying information or adding their own, which can paralyse companies and even put them out of business.

Others copy information and then sell it, which can also jeopardise a company's future.

Mr Lee said because computer literacy in Hong Kong was high, the territory probably had its fair share of computer hackers.

''Parents tend to value any tools that will help their kids with their education and career, and a lot of young people have fairly powerful computers at the age of six or seven,'' he said.

''This is why I believe there are a large number of potential hackers in Hong Kong.''