UK government proposes life sentences for hackers

Hackers in the UK could be in for a world of problems, as the UK government is looking to hand out life-long prison sentences to those who are found guilty of organizing and executing devastating cyberattacks, reported The Guardian.

In Wednesday’s speech from the throne, the British Queen talked about a number of issues that will be on the UK government’s agenda for the coming parliamentary session, and among them were changes to the Serious Crime Bill.

Among other things, the new bill would “create a new offense of possessing ‘paedophilic manuals'” (with a maximum three year sentence), and “amend the Computer Misuse Act 1990 to ensure sentences for attacks on computer systems fully reflect the damage they cause.”

Hackers who perform “cyberattacks which result in loss of life, serious illness or injury or serious damage to national security, or a significant risk thereof” could be facing a lifetime in prison unde the new bill.

Harsher sentences have also been proposed for those found guilty of cyber espionage, especially when it comes to industrial espionage, and for those whose attacks create “a significant risk of severe economic or environmental damage or social disruption.” For the latter offense the current maximum sentence is 10 years, and the government is looking to make it 14.

What wasn’t addressed in the speech: will these laws also apply to security researchers that probe computer systems, networks, and the internet infrastructure for weaknesses in the same ways a hacker would, but with the aim to discover holes and vulnerabilities that could endanger users, and get them fixed?

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