Legislation banning “Hacking tools” in Germany

(Dieser Artikel ist auch in deutscher Sprache verfügbar) The laws on computer crimes have become stricter in Germany where the creation, use or distribution of so-called “hacking tools” have been banned.

On 23 May 2007, the Committee on Legal Affairs of the Bundestag (the lower chamber of Germany’s Federal Parliament) approved a controversial government bill meant to improve criminal prosecution of computer crimes.

The Criminal Code has been modified so as to make illegal for the unauthorized users to access secure data by bypassing the computer security protection system. The “deliberate acquisition of data by tapping into a non-public transmission of data or by way of reading radiation leaked by a data processing system” is now considered a crime.

The German law defines hacking as penetrating a computer security system and gaining access to secure data, without necessarily stealing data and any individual or group that intentionally creates, spreads or purchases hacker tools designed for illegal purposes is considered an offender. Under the present Criminal Code, the offenders could face fines and up to 10 years imprisonment for major offences.

These measures have been criticised being considered as counterproductive by several groups, including EDRI-member Chaos Computer Club, which drew the attention to the so-called “white hat” hackers who work for security companies. By this present legislation, these experts could be in the position of not being allowed to work with software developers in creating secure products. “It’s a win-lose law in favour for the bad guys,” wrote a hacker, known by the pseudonym van Hauser.

Chaos Computer Club also expressed the concern that this legislation will allow the German Government to install spyware on suspected criminals’ computers without their knowledge.

The critics argue that the legislation does not make any difference between a password cracker and a password recovery tool for instance. “Forbidding this software is about as helpful as forbidding the sale and production of hammers because sometimes they also cause damage,” said Chaos Computer Club spokesman Andy Müller-Maguhn to Ars Technica who also stated that under the new law, the police will be able to more easily access information on suspects.

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