back to article Computer misuse: Brits could face LIFE IN PRISON for serious hacking offences

British computer hackers who severely damage the national security of any country could face life in prison under a new criminal offence proposed in the Serious Crime Bill, however the plan has been attacked for lacking legal certainty by MPs and peers. The Joint Committee on Human Rights raised the alarm last Friday, after …

  1. Select * From Handle
    Coat

    #ThingsLongerThanPistoriusSentence

    I'll get my coat...

  2. jake Silver badge

    "Serious Crime Bill"?

    Is there a "Not Very Serious Crime Bill"?

    How about "Not Serious At All Crime Bill"?

    Or perhaps "Not A Crime, But We've Riled Up The Proles, So Let's Make It A Crime Bill".

    Just wondering.

    1. Suricou Raven

      Re: "Serious Crime Bill"?

      The 'not very serious crime' is the crime directed against you, a person without either money, fame or political connections.

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: "Serious Crime Bill"?

      Hacker: I look down on him because I do serious crime.

      Murderer: I look up to him ↑ because he does serious crime; but I look down on him ↓ because he is just a bit of a lad. I don't do very serious crime.

      Bit of a lad: I know my place. I look up to them both. But I don't look up to the murderer as much as I look up to then hacker, because he has got real terrorist potential.

      Hacker: I have got real terrorist potential, but I don't kill people. So sometimes I look up to the murderer.

      Murderer: I still look up to the hacker because although I kill people, I am vulgar. But I am not as vulgar as the lad so I still look down on him.

      Lad: I know my place. I look up to them both; but while I am a penniless thieving wanker, I am industrious and trustworthy. Had I the inclination, I could look down on them. But I don't.

      We all know our place, but what do we get out of it?

      Hacker: I get life in jail.

      Murderer: I get 5 years and a feeling of inferiority from the hacker, but a feeling of superiority over the thieving wankers.

      Lad: I get stopped and searched. Every day.

      (apologies to Python)

      1. Zog_but_not_the_first
        Coffee/keyboard

        Re: "Serious Crime Bill"?

        Upvote for making me laugh at this time of day.

        Pedant note: It was from the Frost Report.

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          Re: "Serious Crime Bill"?

          Pedant note: It was from the Frost Report.

          Ah, it was indeed, thanks. Co-written by Marty Feldman, I hadn't realised that.

      2. toxicdragon

        Re: "Serious Crime Bill"?

        If this is the sketch I think it is, its not python, its the two ronnies + stephen fry,

        1. Someonehasusedthathandle

          Re: "Serious Crime Bill"?

          John Cleese not Fry

          (Sorry to be pedantic but Fry doesn't deserve the credit)

          1. toxicdragon

            Re: "Serious Crime Bill"?

            Ah, its probably a different version than the one I am thinking of then

            1. Lallabalalla

              Re: "Serious Crime Bill"?

              They did a remake - the original was still the 2 Ronnies but with Cleese in The Frost Report. In black and white!

      3. EddieD

        Re: "Serious Crime Bill"?

        ITYM "apologies to "The Frost Report"" (notably Ronnies Barker and Corbett are in this sketch...)

        As with the 4 Yorkshiremen (originally from the "At last the 1948 show", with Cleese, Chapman, Brooke-Taylor and Feldman), many sketches are attributed to the Pythons, and indeed now performed by the Pythons, that were not their material, which may be why their reputation is enhanced beyond their actual talent...in my opinion. They were good, but not as good as the goggles of edited hindsight suggest.

        I'm officially old enough to be a pedantic curmudgeon.

      4. Snowy

        Re: "Serious Crime Bill"?

        The video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K2k1iRD2f-c (first part of it) or the remake http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0JSahEDRjvw

      5. John H Woods Silver badge

        Re: "Serious Crime Bill"?

        ^^ COTW

      6. Roger Varley

        Re: "Serious Crime Bill"?

        It's not Python. That's from the Frost Report, performed by John Cleese and the Ronnies, Baker and Corbett. Written by Marty Feldman and John Law.

    3. billse10

      Re: "Serious Crime Bill"?

      I don't know if there is a "Not A Crime, But We've Riled Up The Proles, So Let's Make It A Crime Bill", but there is a "Not a crime if the council or police do it but it is if anyone else tries Act".

      It's called RIPA.

  3. MJI Silver badge

    A village has lost its idiot.

    Why would it matter if a British person wrecked the Norks only computer?

    Why would it matter if a British security person hacked into say a Middle East system to dig up ISIS information?

    This idiot wants to criminalise GCHQ!

  4. James 51

    For goodness sakes, if they want to get Gary McKinnon that badly they should just say so.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    So let me get this right....

    ...if I hack (not that I'd have a clue how to) into the Israeli defence force and told a load of Palestinians that they we're going to lob a load of cluster bombs in the general area of a Hamas leader. Will I be charged as i clearly have SAVED a lot of lives.

    Actually take it further....

    Do the above and inform a Hamas leader he is about to be assassinated at 3pm outside the mosque, so he avoids the assassination.

    Israel may say I have compromised the security of a nation, but the Palestinians will say I saved the security of a nation.

    One man's terrorist and all that.

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

      Re: So let me get this right....

      At time of posting the score is 5/5 on this one.

      It's nice to see a balance between the terrorists and freedom fighters for once.

  6. LucreLout Silver badge

    "if I hack (not that I'd have a clue how to) into the Israeli defence force and told a load of Palestinians that they we're going to lob a load of cluster bombs in the general area of a Hamas leader. Will I be charged as i clearly have SAVED a lot of lives."

    No you haven't. You've aided and abetted a terrorist. The computer misuse act will be the least of your worries, as you quite rightly board a plane for gitmo/wherever, never to be seen again.

    1. DropBear

      There are times I definitely decry the lack of a persistent "people filter" for the comments; if using "quite rightly" and "gitmo" in the same sentence doesn't warrant it, I really don't know what would.

      1. toxicdragon

        I thought it was obvious enough that the joke icon wasn't needed?

        1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
          Paris Hilton

          "I thought it was obvious enough that the joke icon wasn't needed?"

          The trouble is, there really are people out there that will have this opinion for real, not just in jest. How are we to know unless the icons are used?

          I've just had a look through some previous postings and it's clear the joker is not an outrageous lunatic, but who does that every time they read a comment that might or might not be for real?

  7. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Corruptissima re publica plurimae leges

    How many laws have we got already?

    1. billse10

      Re: Corruptissima re publica plurimae leges

      et quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

      apologies for misquote

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Corruptissima re publica plurimae leges

      "How many laws have we got already?"

      I lost count after NuLabour added 3000 more criminal offences to the statute books. Many of them were poorly drafted by single issue pressure group consultants. Too many left the matter of ambiguous details to the appeal courts to sort out if/when the Police/CPS saw an opportunity for mission creep "pour encourager les autres".

      1. Dr Dan Holdsworth

        Re: Corruptissima re publica plurimae leges

        To be honest we really do need a damn good clear-out of most of this cruft. An automatic sunset clause would probably do the trick nicely. So, if a law has languished unused for more than one calendar year, then it automatically gets repealed, unless a free majority vote of Parliament rescues it for another year.

        That would either make Parliament run round like a headless chicken continually voting to rescue unused and unloved laws (which would preclude their enacting any more), or it would rapidly reduce the number of laws on the statute books to a workable minimum.

        Added to this, there needs to be a stringent limit on the amount of secondary legislation permitted. This is things such as those regulations permitted by such acts as the European Communities Act, an enabler which permits laws to be brought into force without going through Parliament. As this is bypassing the regulatory chambers we have, it is introducing an awful lot of complete gibberish onto the statute books unseen and unread by Parliament.

  8. smudge
    Headmaster

    Any place?

    To provide greater clarity on this point, therefore, Amendment 17 replaces the reference to damage to human welfare in any country with a reference to damage to human welfare in any place. Amendment 18 similarly replaces the reference to damage to the environment in any country with a reference to damage to the environment of any place.

    So what's the definition of "any place". Are they about to outlaw interplanetary hacking? Inter-galactic? Have they taken the possibility of the multi-verse into account?

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: Any place?

      So what's the definition of "any place". Are they about to outlaw interplanetary hacking? Inter-galactic? Have they taken the possibility of the multi-verse into account? .... smudge

      Howdy, smudge,

      Pity the poor stupid legalised idiot who would imagine they have any jurisdiction in the Live Operational Virtual Environment Space/Cyberspace Place.

      1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Re: Useful Idiots and Virtual Pioneers, who be Chalk and Cheese and Not the Same in Any Place

        Dutch Initiative ....... https://blog.cyberwar.nl/2014/10/the-dutch-defense-cyber-command-a-new-operational-capability-colonel-hans-folmer-2014/ heralding dDutch Initiative ..... http://www.ur2die4.com/ddutch-initiative/

        AIVD/MIVD showing MI5/MI6/NSA/CIA the Future Way?

        1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

          Re: Useful Idiots and Virtual Pioneers, who be Chalk and Cheese and Not the Same in Any Place

          AIVD/MIVD showing MI5/MI6/NSA/CIA the Future Way?

          Or are they just into better copying and deploying their Type Skunkworks Shenanigans?

          Either way, Bravo, Nederlands. Late to the party maybe but the fun and games are only just starting and in dire straits need of some novel direction in these stoned age times full of crazies and wannabe Napoleons.

    2. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

      Re: Any place?

      It's as clear as it gets, citizen.

      Anybody doing anything, anywhere, will get any number of years.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Boobquake?

    To challenge assertations that skimpy clothing cause earthquakes, you will remember that a group of women organized over the internet to spend a day wearing skimpy clothing, during which time there was an earthquake.

    If there is a case for prosecution under this law for such events, I point and laugh at this law.

    1. YetAnotherLocksmith

      Re: Boobquake?

      There are hundreds of earthquakes every day. So was there a statistically significant variation in earthquakes on the day?

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

        Re: Boobquake?

        Yet the application of the law now insists that the defendants prove that they were NOT the cause of the earthquake, statistical anomaly or not.

  10. Teiwaz Silver badge

    Falling in line with the EU (excuse) again?

    "necessary to overhaul the Computer Misuse Act 1990 so as the British government could fall in line with the EU."

    Don't the government want to opt out of some EU legislation that isn't convenient?

    I personally think the whole UKIP thing is right-wing political maneauvering in order to get support for dropping most of the socialist directives of the EU, such as Human Rights.

    "prevent individuals from obtaining tools such as malware with the intention to personally commit a cyber crime."

    As Malware is often delivered unsolicited, all they'd need additionally is a thoughtles tweet, blog post etc that criticises the current status quo of modern society in some way (and it won't matter if it's tongue in cheek as law givers and enforcers don't have a concept of a sense of humour).

    I notice also 'individuals'. So their intent is that corporations/governments are allowed to obtain Malware then?

    Life Imprisonment is a ridiculous idea as well, have they forgotten that the prison system is (a) flawed as a reformation system, (b) not up to dealing with more long-stay detaines, (c) We are a small landmass. unlike America, which still has plenty of space. I'd remind the 'Empire remembering' establishment that Australia is picky about it's immigrants these days, and all you've left is the Falklands, which also has finite space.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Falling in line with the EU (excuse) again?

      and all you've left is the Falklands,

      There's a bit more than that, the sun still doesn't set on it. Anyway, Mars will be available soon, perhaps via a PPI?

    2. David L Webb

      Re: Falling in line with the EU (excuse) again?

      "prevent individuals from obtaining tools such as malware with the intention to personally commit a cyber crime."

      This is already covered by the amendments made to the Computer Misuse Act by The Police and Justice Act 2006 which made it an offence to make, supply or obtain articles for use in a computer misuse offence see

      https://wiki.openrightsgroup.org/wiki/Police_and_Justice_Bill_2006#Making.2C_supplying_or_obtaining_articles_for_use_in_computer_misuse_offences

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Threats of "Life In Prison"

    Part and parcel of moving towards a Plea Bargain based legal system ("Plead guilty and we'll give you five years, else we'll go to trial and you'll be in prison for life."). It can really avoid the expenses and effort involved with those pesky trials.

    Also useful for putting just about *anyone* in prison for five years.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Amendment - 1

    "British computer hackers who severely damage the national security of any country could face life in prison" [insert] unless a member of a covert, state-sponsored, organisation.

  13. The Mole

    "It also does not enable UK law enforcement agencies to take action against UK citizens committing cyber crime offences whilst physically outside the UK on the basis of their nationality alone."

    Good, and that is the way it should stay. Whilst I quite agree that some really really serious crimes should allow extra-territorial jurisdiction (crimes against humanity for instance), hacking certainly isn't one - let the country where you perform the act in prosecute the act.

  14. CommanderGalaxian

    "A perpetrator, sitting in their bedroom in London..."

    Doesn't she mean an office in Cheltenham?

  15. southpacificpom

    Life in prison?

    You mean like your own bed, free meals, exercise courtyard etc... in order to detain you?

    Probably similar to working as a programmer at Google then.

  16. Dan Paul

    This law is just another overreaction like "The War on Drugs".

    It seems that lawmakers everywhere only know how to over react to topical threats. Simply creating an offense does not equate to enforcing those offenses.

    To begin with, these "lawmakers" (EVERYWHERE) don't even understand the difference between hackers and crackers, let alone understanding the principle of the Punishment must fit the Crime.

    A 13 year old who hacks into the school records database to increase his grade (get him a job)does not deserve the same inexorable punishment as some one who cracks a banks security and steals the last two digits of every transaction for 5 years (Give him the same penalty as Grand Theft).

    No consideration is given in any case to those security researchers who are trying to find out how a particular piece of malware works, the cops know better, then mere possession of malware for any purpose will land you in the slammer.

    The general vagueness of the offenses contained in the law is ridiculous as they can grass up ANYONE for almost ANY reason.

    And nowhere does it even hint at making the computer user/company being cracked responsible for providing a level of security one would expect for the sums of money involved. Too many get off scott free even though it was THEIR lack of security that allowed the cracker to steal OUR money.

    Personally, if the password was guessed and that password is P@ssw0rd, then maybe the real criminal is not the hacker but the user. I think there are some celebutard iCloud users that fit that description.

    1. Lyndon Hills 1

      Re: This law is just another overreaction like "The War on Drugs".

      Compare and contrast with the damage caused by the financial meltdown, and the average sentence served by the senior bankers responsible.

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

        Re: This law is just another overreaction like "The War on Drugs".

        A question that just drifted across my mind - what if your PC was part of a Botnet that performed a DDoS on a government web site like HMRC?

        1. Mark 85 Silver badge

          Re: This law is just another overreaction like "The War on Drugs".

          Short answer: Your ass is grass and they are the lawnmower. You empowered, aided, abetted (add more legal babble as required) by downloading (knowingly or unknowingly) the malware that put your PC on the botnet.

  17. Alan Johnson

    Seriously confusing draft

    The drafting is fundamentally flawed at the most basic level. In some cases it is clearly intended that a list of conditions shoudl be logically ANDed together in another place that they should be logically ORed together with no text at all to distinguish between the to cases. This is just broken. Which interpretation will prefail?

    At a more fundamental level why do we need it? I am still very sceptical about the idea of hacking causing deaths and similar and for the all the most serious consequences surely we have enough laws already to cover death, serious economic damage etc.

  18. Peter Sommer
    Alert

    10 years maximum penalty under s 3 Computer Misuse Act, not 5

    10 years maximum penalty under s 3 Computer Misuse Act, not 5!

  19. JaitcH
    WTF?

    Whose rules RULE?

    I have citizenship of, and passports from, three countries and work in a fourth.

    My employer supplies legally manufactured military electronic equipment, designed/fabricated in the fourth country, whose political interests are adverse to the first three countries. The fourth country supports, and recognises, countries in Eastern Asia and Middle East.

    Presently we market most of our products through a government arms agency, as do the other countries.

    The question arises is just whose legislation prevails?

    This the the problem when the UK or the US extends it's 'jurisdiction' beyond it's recognised territory.

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