New e-crime law

Computer hacking and misuse are coming under the spotlight with the new Police and Justice Bill.

Feb 9, 2006
By David Howell
Conservative MP Sir David Amess

Computer hacking and misuse are coming under the spotlight with the new Police and Justice Bill.

Computer offences could attract a sentence of ten years in prison for anyone convicted of unauthorised modifications to computer systems. Computer hackers could also face tougher sentences if the new Bill becomes law, increasing the current six months in prison to two years if convicted of the unauthorised access to computer systems.

The UK is estimated to lose £3bn as a result of denial of service attacks (DOS) that are typical of hacker activity. The Government is also looking closely at the Computer Misuse Act to criminalise DOS attacks. The new legislation would be in line with the UK’s commitment to the Council of Europe’s cyber crime convention. The convention itself is an attempt to clarify a number of cyber crimes that currently affect member states.

Simon Janes, a former member of the Met’s computer crime unit, now international operations manager at computer forensics expert Ibas, told silicon.com: “This is definitely a step in the right direction.” Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, said:

“It’s about time the Computer Misuse Act caught up. We welcome any move which will send a strong message to the internet underworld that their activities will not go unpunished.”

However, James Kay, CTO at BlackSpider, also told silicon.com that even with the strengthening of the law, this would have little impact overall: “If you’re a UK national, then sure, tougher laws are a deterrent – who wants to go to jail just for playing around with spyware? But if you’re sitting in Romania and stand to make some money, would you give a monkey’s? I don’t think it will make any real difference, particularly when you consider that most of the problem comes from outside the UK.”

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