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Lock down the law, Computer Weekly's campaign to persuade the Government to prioritise a review of the UK's archaic computer...

Lock down the law, Computer Weekly's campaign to persuade the Government to prioritise a review of the UK's archaic computer crime laws, shifts up a gear this week with the introduction of an online petition enabling our readers to offer their support.

Currently, attempts to investigate and prosecute cybercriminals are hampered because the UK's computer crime laws are outdated and contain important gaps.

The world was a very different place when the laws regulating the abuse of IT systems were framed. The Computer Misuse Act 1990, for instance, relies on the concept of prosecution for unauthorised access - and is therefore not appropriate to the Internet age, where Web sites welcome suppliers and customers into corporate systems as a matter of course.

Similarly, existing UK law makes it hard for the police to prosecute denial of service attacks since, if it is not a crime to send one e-mail, how can it be a crime to send many?

Even when prosecutions of cybercriminals are successful, sentences are too low: all too often it is a fine or a suspended sentence.

In order to change this unsatisfactory situation, Computer Weekly is lobbying the Government to review and update cyber law; and so too is the National High-Tech Crime Unit. But the strongest voice of all, the UK's IT professional community at large, has remained silent. Now you have the chance to change that.

For an industry sector boasting so many user groups, the IT industry has a pretty poor track record of making its voice heard by government. Recently, there has been a dearth of IT user input on a series of government measures, among them the roll-out of broadband Internet services, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act and the IR35 tax changes.

If you've never been a victim of a hack attack, have never had to work through the night to clear your organisation's systems of a virus, and have never have seen your department brought to a standstill by a denial of service attack, then you may well think that signing the petition is a waste of your time, and decide not to engage with this issue.

But if you have suffered any or all of these fates and would like to see the police given a fighting chance to crack down on the people responsible, we would urge you to add your weight to our campaign by logging on to crimesurvey and putting your name to our petition.

It is essential that any move by the Government to review and remodel legislation should be made only after full consultation with the IT industry. If Whitehall perceives a groundswell of feeling among IT professionals, it will be far likelier to seek such consultation with them.

It's no understatement to say that the future of UK computing depends on you.

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