UK takes aim at serious hacking offenses with planned life sentences

Law makers in Britain are discussing a dramatic increase in sentencing for serious hacking offenses, according to The Register. Currently in discussion in the country’s upper house, The House of Lords, the move looks to overhaul the Computer Misuse Act 1990, and includes a possible life sentence for serious hackers.

Under current UK law and the aforementioned Computer Misuse Act 1990, hackers can serve a maximum jail time of five years, so a move to an upper limit of ’14 years and life imprisonment’, as proposed by the Serious Crimes Bill, would represent a major increase to reflect the seriousness with which cybercriminals are increasingly being treated.

However, the Serious Crimes Bill has been “attacked for lacking legal certainty by MPs and peers”, according to The Register, which illustrates the difficulty in producing airtight definitions in something as hard to define as cybercrime, with a particular sticking point coming at the difficulties involved in geographical definitions, when hacking goes beyond borders. As Baroness Williams of Trafford pointed out during the debate: “The tentacles of cybercrime can now stretch across the globe.”

She continued: “A perpetrator sitting in their bedroom in London could be hacking into a computer anywhere in the world, or, located outside the UK, a British national could be causing serious damage to their host country or in our own.”

Another sticking point has come in the imprecise terminology involved, with the original bill highlighting hacking that damaged the environment, economy or national security as part of the law. However, the Joint Committee on Human Rights took issue with this, stating “We do not doubt the need to ensure that the criminal law provides adequate protection against cyber-attacks on critical infrastructure. We doubt, however, whether the concepts of “damage to the environment”, “damage to the economy” or “damage to national security” are sufficiently certain in their meaning to justify their inclusion as an ingredient of a criminal offense carrying maximum sentences of 14 years and life imprisonment.”

The Register reports that the amendments to the Bill were all agreed, and that “a second day of report stage scrutiny is scheduled in the House of Lords on 28 October.”

Author , ESET

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