What is the Punishment for Cyber Crime?

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What is the Punishment for Cyber Crime?
9 Min Read

The government has proposed a new Bill – called the Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill – to Parliament.

Cyber Laws To Be Introduced in the UK

The government has proposed a new Bill – called the Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill – to Parliament. It has been described as a “new world-leading law” and aims to protect consumers from hackers.

Cyber security

Nowadays, more and more of us have devices that connect to the internet. There are the obvious things, such as computers and laptops. Then there are the not-so-obvious things, like baby monitors, speakers, thermostats, printers, toys, smart TVs and fitness trackers. In fact, each household in the UK has an average of 10 devices that connect to the internet. These are all at risk of cyber-attacks. If this seems implausible, just consider the North American casino whose data was stolen after attackers gained access through an internet-connected fish tank.

Yet UK laws and security measures have largely failed to keep pace with technology. The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre says that it dealt with 777 incidents in the last 12 months, an unprecedent number. An investigation by Which? also found that the average home could be exposed to over 12,000 scanning or hacking attacks in a single week.

The Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill

In an attempt to better protect consumers, the government has now introduced the Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill to Parliament. If passed into law, it would:

Ban universal default passwords. All new devices will have a unique password and cannot be restored to a universal factory setting.

Force firms to be transparent with customers about the action they are taking to fix security flaws, or tell customers if a product does not come with security updates.

Create a system for the public to report any vulnerabilities found in products, including flaws and bugs.

Place a duty on in-scope businesses to investigate compliance failures and to produce records and statements of compliance.

Create a new regulator who will have the power to impose financial penalties for non-compliance.

The Bill relates to all products that are capable of access to the internet, ranging from smartphones to voice-activated assistants. It also covers devices that connect to other devices but not directly to the internet, such as smart light bulbs. However, the proposed law excludes second-hand products, as well as desktops and laptops which are already served by antivirus software.

Powers of the new regulator

If the Bill is passed into law, a new regulator will be set up to monitor compliance amongst companies. The regulator will have the power to issue notices to companies requiring the recall of products, prevent the sale or supply of products, and implement compliance with security requirements. Non-compliance can lead to financial penalties, with the maximum fine being £10 million or 4% of global turnover, plus up to £20,000 per day in an ongoing contravention.

What happens next?

The Bill is currently making its way through Parliament, meaning it could be subject to amendments. However, it is likely to be enacted in some form, so companies involved in the sale of internet-access products need to pay close attention. The law will place far greater responsibilities on companies, with non-compliance resulting in costly financial penalties.

Proposed legal changes

This relates to the taking of non-consensual photographs and video recordings of breastfeeding mothers. This will become a criminal offence where the motive is to obtain sexual gratification, or to cause humiliation, distress or alarm. It will be punishable by up to two years in prison.

Different pieces of legislation govern each of these offences, such as the Fraud Act 2006, the Computer Misuse Act 1990, the Domestic Abuse Act 2021, and the Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Act 2021.

Proposed legal changes

This relates to the taking of non-consensual photographs and video recordings of breastfeeding mothers. This will become a criminal offence where the motive is to obtain sexual gratification, or to cause humiliation, distress or alarm. It will be punishable by up to two years in prison.

Different pieces of legislation govern each of these offences, such as the Fraud Act 2006, the Computer Misuse Act 1990, the Domestic Abuse Act 2021, and the Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Act 2021.

What is the punishment for cyber crime?

It is therefore impossible to say exactly what the punishment for cyber crime might be. It all depends on the nature of the offence, and which Act you are prosecuted under.

What are the penalties under the Computer Misuse Act 1990?

A large number of cyber crimes fall under the Computer Misuse Act 1990. This makes provisions for ‘securing computer material against unauthorised access or modification; and for connected purposes’. A number of computer misuse offences are listed under the Act, all of which are given a maximum penalty. For example, in England and Wales, someone who is convicted of:

Unauthorised access to computer material – could receive a fine and/or up-to 12 months in prison for a summary offence. This increases to a fine and/or up-to two years in prison for a conviction on indictment.

Unauthorised access with intent to commit or facilitate the commission of further offences – could receive a fine and/or up-to 12 months in prison for a summary offence. This increases to a fine and/or up-to five years in prison for a conviction on indictment.

Unauthorised acts with intent to impair, or with recklessness as to impairing, operation of a computer – could receive a fine and/or up-to 12 months in prison for a summary offence. This increases to a fine and/or up-to 10 years in prison for a conviction on indictment.

Unauthorised acts causing, or creating a risk of, serious damage – could receive up to a fine and/or up to 14 years in prison. This increases to life imprisonment if national security and/or human welfare is either harmed or put at risk.

Making, supplying or obtaining articles for use in committing an offence – could receive a fine and/or up-to 12 months in prison for a summary offence. This increases to a fine and/or up-to two years in prison for a conviction on indictment.

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