(Petaling Jaya, Saturday): The second Internet history in Malaysia was made when the 92-section 57-page Digital Signature Bill was posted on the Internet via the DAP homepage at http://www.malaysia.net/dap and the mirror site, http://www.geocities.com/Tokyo/3399.
The Cabinet, at its next meeting on Wednesday, should take a policy decision to post all Bills on the Internet for four reasons:
The Cabinet should take this far-sighted decision as the DAP, by posting the Computer Crimes Bill and the Digital Signature Bill on the Internet, has shown that it is very easy and simple for the government to make information of all kinds available electronically.
The Government has announced that “electronic government” is one of the eight flagship applications in the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC), starting with the Prime Minister’s Office which would be “paperless” when it is completed in Putrajaya in September next year.
There is no need for the government to wait until the Prime Minister’s Office in MSC is completed for the government to introduce electronic government, and the posting of all Bills on the Internet is one example where government services could go on-line immediately.
Another reason why the government should post Bills on the Internet is to promote greater citizen awareness and participation about new laws which the government want to legislate.
For instance, the government should encourage the fullest public feedback and inputs on the Computer Crimes Bill and the Digital Signature Bill as Malaysia wants to have the best cyberlaws in the region as one attraction to turn Malaysia into a world IT hub.
The Computer Crimes Bill is providing tough penalties where a person who is guilty of unauthorised access to computer material would be punishable to a maximum fine of RM50,000 or five years’ jail or both.
However, there is no saving clause to exempt hackers who gain access to computers with no criminal or malicious intent, as in the case of the two TMnet hackings last month - which were to highlight public unhappiness with the poor TMnet services and to point out its poor security system.
Under the Computer Crimes Bill, the two TMnet hackers would be regarded as criminals liable to the severe penalities provided under it.
Recently, the “French Spiderman”, Alain Robert was arrested by the police for trying to scale one of the Petronas Twin Towers, the world’s tallest building on March 20 - after climbing 60 floors of the 88-storey building.
However, the Attorney-General’s Chambers decided not to prefer any charges against him for trespassing.
The Computer Crimes Bill should have a “French Spiderman” provision to exampt hackers with no criminal or malicious intent and which result in better computer security systems from prosecution.
The computer crime law should make a distinction between “hacking” and “cracking”, the latter connoting malicious computer meddling, while in its original technological sense, the word “hacker”, coined at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the 1960s, simply connoted a computer virtuoso. The 1994 edition of the New Hacker’s Dictionary defined such a person as someone “who enjoys epxloring the details of programmable systems and how to stretch their capabilities; one who programs enthusiastically, even obsessively”.
The ethics of “responsible hacking” included the following ideals:
The finest software pioneers in the United States were proud to be called hackers. The government should enlist the support of the computer whizz-kids who breach computer security defences for sport and could tell the experts how they do it, so as to improve on the information security systems.