Australian cybercriminals facing stiffer penalties

Australia's decade-old cybercrime laws are to be overhauled and replaced by new laws that will carry a heftier penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment.

Australia's decade-old cybercrime laws are to be overhauled and replaced by new laws that will carry a heftier penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment.

AUSTRALIA (ZDNet Australia)-- Under the hard-hitting new laws, unauthorised computer activities such as hacking, denial of service and spreading computer viruses will carry the maximum penalty of 10 years jail.

Unauthorised computer access, with the intent to commit an offence and trading in technology designed to hack or damage another person’s computer, would carry stiff jail sentences of three years, whilst the unauthorised impairment of data on a disc could see an offender behind bars for two years.

"Cybercrime laws haven't kept pace with technology," a spokesperson for the federal Justice Minister, Senator Chris Ellison, told ZDNet.

"Obviously there have been significant developments with computer technology and the Internet and we need modern rules to attack the modern cyber crime that is occurring."

Current cybercrime laws, which are now more than a decade old, are the target of the federal government's Computer Offences and Investigation Powers Bill 2001 that will hopefully introduce the new laws to Parliament within the next couple of weeks and debated during the spring session of Parliament.

The laws are aimed at cracking down on cybercrime that on a global scale is costing companies in the vicinity of three trillion dollars a year.

An estimated 50,000 Australian companies suffered heavy losses as a result of infection from the "Love Bug" and "Anna Kournikova" viruses and earlier hackers ran up AU$12 million worth of untraceable calls when they tapped into the computer switchboards of 12 large Australian corporations, according to Senator Ellison's office.

"The proposed new offences and powers remedy a number of shortcomings in existing legislation and address the challenges posed by technological developments," Senator Ellison said.