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Estonia gets tough on cyber crime

  • 2007-09-17
  • From wire reports
TALLINN - With 'cyber attacks' are becoming an increasingly common phenomenon, Estonian lawmakers are considering  amendments to the penal code that would put such online offenses on a par with terrorism, the daily Postimees reported Sep. 17.

A computer attack would become an act of terrorism when committed with the same aims as a conventional act of terrorism. Under existing law, crimes of terror are crimes whose goal is to seriously upset or destroy the country's political, constitutional, economic or social order.

Crimes of terrorism are punishable by between 5 years and life (25 years) in jail.

The Estonian Ministry of Justice began drafting the amendments after the cyber attacks that targeted Estonia's government agencies, major banks and newspapers in April and May. The current laws deal with computer crime as something that has personal or financial gain as the final aim, which was not the case with the spring attacks against Estonia's IT infrastructure.

Sentences for other computer-related crimes are already being extended. After the amendments take effect it will be possible to punish hackers with a maximum three years in jail instead of the present one year. For computer fraud and spreading computer viruses caught on a repeat offense or after causing extensive damage the maximum punishment will be five years.

The ministry wishes to add to the penal code an article dealing with the preparation to commit a cyber offense, which would deal with cases when hackers make, use or disseminate a computer network element, program, password or code for the purpose of committing a cyber offense.

The bill is based on the Council of Europe convention against cyber crimes.