U.K. cybercriminals threatened with 10-year term

Police and Justice Bill's "Miscellaneous" section includes important revisions to Britain's Computer Misuse Act.

Cybercriminals in the United Kingdom face the prospect of tougher sentences and modernized laws to ensure a greater number of convictions for computer-related crimes.

A Police and Justice Bill introduced Wednesday by the Home Office includes sections relating specifically to the modernization of U.K. law to better deal with those who have committed Internet-related crime.

Although the bill recommends reform for general areas of U.K. law enforcement--ranging from dealing with school truants to greater stop-and-search powers for police--the fifth section, entitled "Miscellaneous," includes important revisions to the current Computer Misuse Act (CMA), including a suggested maximum 10-year prison sentence for individuals maliciously impairing the operation of a computer, or hindering or preventing the access to programs or data.

The wording of the bill suggests that such revisions would encompass acts such as denial-of-service attacks, not currently covered by the CMA, as well as crimes such as the random or targeted distribution of malicious code.

Obtaining physical or digital tools with the intent and prior knowledge to commit cybercrimes is also covered and would carry a maximum sentence of 12 months.

That the revisions to the CMA are bundled with a wider bill is a positive sign, according to Derek Wyatt, a longtime proponent of reform to the current CMA.

Wyatt told Silicon.com that it is "good news all round," adding that its inclusion in the miscellaneous section of a longer bill has greatly increased the chances of success.

"This is about the only way it could have been added to a major bill," he said, adding that many of the recommendations are "in line with" what he proposed in a 10-minute rule bill last year calling for changes to the CMA.

"This is more or less what we wanted," Wyatt said.

Will Sturgeon of Silicon.com reported from London.

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