The statement by the Minister for Energy, Telecommunications and Posts, Datuk Leo Moggie when commenting on the two recent break-ins into Internet service provider TMnet’s system by a hacker that the government will look into drafting laws to curb computer crimes such as hacking has come as a great surprise.
This is because the country and Members of Parliament have been repeatedly told that the first batch of cyberbills, covering digital signature, multimedia copyright, computer crime and telemedicine development had already been finalised and even received the approval of Cabinet, and would be presented to the next Parliament for passage.
The people would have expected an assurance from Moggie that the problems of hacking and other computer offences have already been provided by the bill on computer crime to be presented to Parliament next month, rather than the statement that with the two instances of hacking into the TMnet, the Government would now study how to curb such practices.
Is Moggie suggesting that the government’s computer crime bill has no provision to deal with the problem of hacking?
If so, this omission will be a basic flaw for any bill on computer crime, for it was computer hacking which first led to legislation against computer crime in many countries in the West for over a decade.
In fact, in the 21st century, almost all crime againt property will be perpetrated within computer systems. Many other crimes, even violent ones, will be controlled or directed by computers. The principal reason for this will be the central role played by computer systems in storing and processing the assets of individuals and organizations, and in directing the activities of enterprises.
Would the government and Parliament be able to grasp the full import of the Information Technology revolution when the proposed cyberbill on computer crime to be presented to Parliament next months does not deal with the problem of hacking?
Even the phrase “computer crime” is a misnomer. Computers do not commit crimes any more than firearms kill people. People commit all the crimes.
Moggie says that the two hacking incident into TMnet are “no big deal”, as hackers break into computer systems all over the world. But it is a “real big deal” when the government’s proposed cyberbill on computer crime has no provision on computer hacking whatsoever.
This incident highlights the importance and urgency as to why the government’s first batch of cyberbills should be made public without any more delay before they are presented to Parliament for debate and passage next month, so as to allow the widest discussion, consultation and examination to ensure that we have cyberlaws which are a credit to a nation which is serious in wanting to take a quantum leap into the Information Era.
In this connection, it is worth noting that the chief executive of the Singapore National Computer Board, Stephen Yeo, said in Johore Bahru yesterday that while many schools in Malaysia already had the hardware to expand IT among students, this was not enough unless IT was made an integral part of the students’ curriculum.
In next month’s Parliament, the DAP would urge the government to take a bold policy decision to make IT literacy a core curriculum subject for all primary and secondary schools to pave the way for Malaysia’s quantum leap into the Information Age in the new millennium.
During the debate on the new Education Bill in December 1995, I have moved an amendment during the committee stage of the bill to incorporate into the new Education Act the provision that computer literacy is specified as a core subject of the national primary and secondary school curriculum, but the government and Parliament was not ready to accept this far-sighted idea at the time.
I hope the Education Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak would now be more favourably disposed towards this proposal.