U of M cyberattacks show law trails technology, prof says

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A law professor at Dalhousie University says the law needs to catch up with technology to better protect victims of cybercrimes.

Wayne MacKay ​said a new federal law prohibiting the distribution of intimate images without consent is not easy to apply. This is especially true with the cyberattacks the University of Moncton has been combating in recent days.

A woman studying at the university has been the target of a mass email campaign that authorities are calling cyberterrorism. Codiac RCMP are investigating the emails, which began more than a week ago and have included sexually explicit images.

MacKay said suggested lawmakers should consider whether more is needed to deal with cybercrime  that crosses jurisdictional boundaries.

"Because in the world of cyberspace, there really aren't any boundaries," he said. "So it's not as simple as it used to be that the crime was committed in a particular country, it's dealt with in a particular country.

"So we need to look at whether or not the laws do adequately deal with that — for example do we have enough extradition treaties, do we have enough cooperation between police forces, those kinds of things."

More international treaties?

Canada has extradition treaties with 49 countries.

The person behind the Moncton attack claimed in one of the emails that he was living in Morocco, threatening police by saying "so just catch me if you can."

Canada has no extradition treaty with Morocco, but if the perpetrator is indeed in that country, there could be other ways to bring him to justice, MacKay said.

"They could certainly exert at least some political influence that something would happen at least in the home country," he said.

When there are conflicts about who has legal jurisdiction in a particular case, often the focus is on where the victim is, he said.

Civil lawsuit a deterrent

MacKay said there has only been one conviction since the new law about intimate images came into effect in Canada in 2015, but it's becoming a growing area of the law, with another case going to trial soon. 

Civil lawsuits can also be a deterrent, he said.

Provinces are looking into ways to ensure people have recourse against perpetrators.

"Increasingly, those people might be sued for compensation for the damages done," said MacKay, suggesting the damages could be quite large.

"If they identify who's doing this, the damages would be not just to the victim, which is obviously huge, but also to the university as a whole, to the other students in the university."