US Congress approves life terms for crackers

Bill aims to turn ISPs into snitches

The US House of Representatives has approved a bill which raises the penalty for computer crime to a maximum of life imprisonment.

Crackers who put lives at risk, either knowingly or through "reckless" behaviour, could be sent to jail for life under measures in the Cyber Security Enhancement Act, which the house yesterday passed an overwhelming majority by 385 votes to three.

The bill also seeks to impose tougher sentencing regimes for computer criminals.

Controversy, however, centres on measures designed water down ISPs responsibility to protect their users data and turn into government snitches.

The bill encourages ISPs to report suspicious activity on their networks (whatever that might be), even if it poses no immediate threat, and shield them from lawsuits from anyone objecting to such privacy intrusions. Service providers are also required to keep customer records, including emails, for 90 days, under the bill.

Civil liberties groups are concerned that the Act will erode Internet privacy because it could give law enforcement agencies leverage in obtaining records from service providers without the tedious business of obtaining a search warrant.

The bill has to go to Senate, where it is expected to receive little opposition, before becoming law. ®

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