Crime in Space?

It was going to happen eventually, the headline NASA to investigate first crime in space. This does not in this case actually mean that the crime was entirely space related, the victim of the alleged crime was still on terra firma. The crime? Checking on her estranged spouses bank account amidst a messy divorce and disagreements over the parenting, she claims that it was because she had their best interests at heart, she wanted to know that their son was being looked after and there was enough to pay the bills etc. I would agree that this is a genuine concern but not grounds for what can essentially be called hacking and even fraud, assuming she access the banks services via the internet that would imply that the login information had not changed since their relationship ended. Most people would like to assume that the likelihood of their information being abused in this way is slim to none but again I don’t think people should be complacent – especially if this is an on-going concern such as during a divorce.

If your account was fraudulently attacked by a third party you would change all your details to prevent it happening again, although their finances were still intertwined would it not be sensible to advise the bank of the situation and at least put measures in place, would you not change your locks and improve security if your house was broken into? I am far from unsympathetic to the victim, it is most definitely a violation of her privacy, their bitter divorce is clearly the reason in which this situation has arisen. As it stood she claims still still had permission from the victim to proceed as normal, instructions remain as do laws until they are changed.

This maybe a lesson for those in a similar situation – if you do not have a joint account and you wish your details to remain private it stands to reason that you should remove the permissions and likewise change passwords etc, in a world where it is clear the internet has broken down many boundaries you cannot expect to remain anonymous. Clearly advising this account is off limits and changing the password would have negated this issue even arising.

Space law is legal framework sets out that national law applies to any people and possessions in space. There are five national or international space agencies involved in the ISS – from the US, Canada, Japan, Russia and some European countries – so essentially whichever country the victim is the citizen off they will be charged by that countries law.

Space law also sets out provisions for extradition back on Earth, should a nation decide it wishes to prosecute a citizen of another nation for misconduct in space.

As space tourism becomes a reality, so might the need to prosecute space crime, but for now the legal framework remains untested. NASA officials told the New York Times that they were not aware of any crimes committed on the space station.

In 2016 the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in a case called United States v. Nosal, held 2-1 that using someone else’s password, even with their knowledge and permission, is a federal criminal offence. So its important to note that the law is not a grey area on this issue. It will be interesting to see how the situation progresses in this case as it will set a precedent for future cases.

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