HACKING INFORMATION SYSTEMS could become a criminal offense worthy of two years imprisonment after a vote in the European Parliament.
A Civil Liberties Committee vote yesterday supported a draft law proposal that would bring down a steel capped boot on anyone carrying out or associated with hacking.
The proposals would make possessing or distributing hacking software and tools an offence under law, and interestingly would make companies liable for cyber attacks that are committed for their benefit.
The proposal got overwhelming support among committee members and was approved by 50 votes in favour with just one vote against and three abstentions.
Importantly, as rules vary from country to country at present, so in the UK hackers can be prosecuted under the Computer Misuse Act, for example, this would bring down a blanket over Europe and harmonise laws.
There would be a set way of dealing with hacking crimes, and a strong idea of what constitutes an attack. For example, accessing a network, database or web site without permission would be an offence, as would interfering with or intercepting data.
"We are dealing here with serious criminal attacks, some of which are even conducted by criminal organisations. The financial damage caused for companies, private users and the public side amounts to several billions each year," said rapporteur Monika Hohlmeier, who will oversee the discussions.
"No car manufacturer may send a car without a seatbelt into the streets. And if this happens, the company will be held liable for any damage. These rules must also apply in the virtual world," she added.
Hacking attacks of the above nature would get a maximum two year penalty, according to MEPs, but this can scale up to five years if a large scale botnet is used, or more, if an industrial or other powerful system is the target.
Three year sentences will be reserved for anyone that uses IP spoofing to pretend to be another user in an attempt to cover up their own crimes.
It is not all jackboots though, as some hackers who don't really cause any damage or harm will be treated lightly and suffer no criminal sanctions. µ