Tougher cybercrime sentences demanded

Tom Harris MP wants convicted hackers to face up to ten years behind bars

A Labour MP is attempting to raise the maximum sentences that can be handed down on UK citizens who are convicted of hacking and DoS attacks.

Tom Harris, MP for Glasgow South, introduced a bill on Tuesday to update the Computer Misuse Act. Harris wants the maximum sentence for accessing data without authorisation increase from six months to two years, and the maximum sentence for modifying data without authorisation lifted to 10 years from five at present.

"By increasing the tariff on these crimes, the House would be sending a message to the courts and the public prosecution service that these crimes must be taken seriously and that, where appropriate, custodial sentences must be applied," Harris told Parliament.

"It is regularly claimed that the cost of cleaning up virus or worm attacks runs into billions of pounds. The current level of sentences does not reflect the seriousness of such offences," he added.

Harris's bill would also create a specific offence of launching a denial-of-service attack. As it stands, the CMA does not explicitly outlaw the practice of bombarding Web servers with large amounts of traffic to take them offline.

The CMA was introduced in 1990, and is now widely seen as lacking the necessary powers to deal with today's cybercriminals. The government has committed itself to updating the CMA, but so far has failed to produce any definite proposals.

Harris's bill is unlikely to become law, although it has won the support of other MPs, including the All Party Parliamentary Internet Group (APIG) which has been lobbying the government to give the CMS sharper teeth.

"We hope that the Government adopts the measures proposed in the Bill as a matter of urgency, reflecting the significant threat that cybercrime poses to the UK," said Derek Wyatt MP, joint chair of APIG.

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