The government proposes to hand out stiffer sentences to cyber-criminals by revamping the Computer Misuse Act.
A Police and Justice Bill has been introduced, which includes a 'miscellaneous' section that covers revisions to the current Act.
Suggested punishments include a maximum 10-year prison sentence for those found to have maliciously impaired the operation of a computer or to have hindered or prevented the access to programs or data.
The wording could be used to bring cases against hackers and criminals that launch denial of service attacks and spread malicious code.
The Computer Misuse Act’s effectiveness in punishing those creating denial of service attacks was questioned last year, when a magistrate threw out a case.
He had been charged under the Act and the magistrate agreed with the man’s defence that the Computer Misuse Act, which had been drawn up before denial of service attacks had appeared, did not cover such events.
Other proposals in the Bill include punishing those found to have obtained physical or digital tools which could be used to commit cyber crimes, with intent. This could carry a maximum 12-month sentence.