The government has proposed sharply increasing penalties for computer crime, taking the maximum penalty for unauthorised modification of a computer from five to 10 years.
The changes will be made through the Police and Justice Bill, which would amend the 1990 Computer Misuse Act. If the bill becomes law, those convicted of unauthorised access to a computer could face a prison sentence of two years, up from six months.
According to the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit, e-crime costs those UK companies with more than 1,000 employees £2.4bn annually. Of the 200 companies that participated in a survey, 90% reported they had experienced unauthorised access to their networks, while 89% had been victims of data theft.
The Computer Misuse Act has looked like outdated legislation for some time as technology and threats have increased in complexity. Last year, it emerged from one case that the Act did not cover denial of service attacks. Now, new clauses and stiffer penalties will give it more bite.