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Germany enacts 'anti-hacker' law

Will the last security expert to leave Germany turn off the lights

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Germany has introduced draconian anti-hacker measures that criminalise the creation or possession of dual-use security tools.

An update to the country's computer hacking laws makes denial of service attacks and hacking assaults against individuals clearly criminal. Gaining access to data, without necessarily stealing information, would also become an arrestable offence. The most serious offences are punishable on conviction by up to 10 years' imprisonment.

Controversy centres around provision in the laws that make it an offense to create or distribute "hacking tools", a notoriously ambiguous term. The distinctions between, for example, a password cracker and a password recovery tool, or a utility designed to run DOS attacks and one designed to stress-test a network, are not covered by the new law, critics argue. Possession of dual-use tools - port scanners such as nmap or security scanners like nessus - is punishable by imprisonment of up to 12 months and a fine.

The changes in German computer hacking law are similar to measures proposed in the UK's Police and Justice Bill, which were dropped following industry pressure.

The effects of Germany's anti-hacker crusade are already beginning to bite. Security tools developers have already begun packing up shop, security consultancy Sûnnet Beskerming reports.

For example, the developers of KisMAC, an OS X wireless network scanning tool, have stopped development in Germany and are in the process of moving to the Netherlands. Proof-of concept exploit code that accompanied the Month of PHP bugs project, developed by German coder Stefan Esser, has been withdrawn.

Chaos Computer Club (CCC), the influential German-based hacker group, sarcastically comments that the law must mean German politicians reckon the country is now free of computer security problems. CCC is currently in the process of holding its DefCon-style Chaos Communications Camp hack-in outside Berlin. ®

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