New laws include life sentence and hanging for cyber-crime

Cyber-criminals in the UK can now be sentenced to life in prison for their crimes following an amendment to the Computer Misuse Act 1990 earlier this month.

The original bill, which cited former SC co-founder Steve Gold's hack into Prince Phillip's email, first made computer hacking a recognised crime. The recent amendment says a person could deserve life in prison if they have committed an “unauthorised act” when they knew it was unauthorised, Forbes reports. The person would have had to know their actions would cause “serious damage” to “human welfare or to national security,” or the person had been “reckless as to whether such harm was caused.”

Forbes noted that the update's wording is vague, considering that “serious damage” and “national security” aren't clearly defined.

The bill also seeks to prevent individuals obtaining tools such as malware with the intention of committing a cyber-crime, and extend the UK courts' extra-territorial jurisdiction to allow prosecution of UK nationals committing computer misuse offences while physically outside the UK.

The changes are intended to ensure legislation is up to date and so bring offenders to justice and deter individuals from committing cyber offences, thus reduce the threat and impact of cyber-crime.  There may be a review in September 2020. A government assessment says the number of new prosecutions are likely to be ‘negligible' (there were only two prosecutions in England and Wales under section 3A of the Computer Misuse Act over the past three years) so it is assumed the law will be used to target serious crime and not low level hackers.

Without the new amendment, the government says that law enforcement agencies do not have the necessary powers to intervene early enough to prevent potential criminal damage.

More analysis to follow on Monday.

Meanwhile, in Nigeria, a separate cyber-crime law was passed this month that says any attack on critical national infrastructure that causes a death will be sentenced to death through hanging.

A more typical cyber-crime sentence in Nigeria is seven years imprisonment or £16,000 fine or both, including for anyone found guilty of intentionally propagating false information that could threaten the security of the country or that is capable of inciting the general public against the government through electronic messages.

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