The UK National Crime Agency has annonced that one in five children are being criminalised by the Computer Misuse Act (CMA). They warn of life changing consequences for the children involved.

They give a few example, which seem to me to fall into one of three categories which all have very different interpretations:

Serious Crimes

Eg. "downloading software to get access to someone else’s device" and "engage in DDoS-ing". These are serious hacking charges. If a large part of the one in five children are involved with this sort of thing that is something that is worth knowing.

Crimes without the CMA

Eg. "buying something using the saved card details on someone else’s account. Gamers who make in-game purchases without the permission of the account holder". I think this would be illegal without the CMA, probably theft or fraud. If such things ever get to criminal convictions I would be surprised if the CMA charges would be any more than a footnote after more serious offences. If a large part of the one in five is this I would feel the press release is being somewhat disingenuous.

Things that are complex for adults to understand

Eg. "trying to access a protected server". The definition of unauthorised access to a server on the public internet is difficult. I cannot work out how to go from that law and answers on law.SE to "am I allowed to access this game server I found on discord/shodan". If a large part of the one in five children are being criminalised by this then it seems more information could solve the problem.

Do we know anything about the distribution of crimes within this one in five that the National Crime Agency has announced?

  • 1
    This seems like a question for Law SE. Feb 18 at 8:36
  • 2
    And your wording "children are being criminalised" sounds a bit pushy to me. Feb 18 at 8:42
  • @Fizz Is there a more neutral wording for a law applying to a certain group? Affected maybe? Also I don't think this is a law question unless it's about the interpretation of "trying to access a protected server". This question simply seems to ask to quantify the extent to which parts of this law apply to children. Feb 18 at 9:25
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    The linked answer explains where the definition of unauthorised can be found and quotes the law. I think people tend to know and/or it ends to be quite clear when they are doing something authorised or unauthorised. The equivalent of an open door with a sign saying all welcome vs. the equivalent of climbing over a stranger's fence in the dark and trying all their doors and windows to see if any are unlocked.
    – Lag
    Feb 18 at 11:59
  • 2
    The 1 in 5 stat is from a survey of children. It seems the NCA has not published the survey data. The NCA might provide it if asked.
    – Lag
    Feb 18 at 14:48


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