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The Obama administration is looking to make hacking attacks against critical infrastructure systems punishable by a mandatory three years imprisonment. It also wants an Act normally applied to mobsters to be applied to online criminals too.

The proposal (8-page PDF/154KB) was among a long list for improvements to cybersecurity submitted to Congress by the executive branch of the US government last week. In addition, the Obama administration would like the Racketeering-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act – or RICO – which is normally applied against traditional organised crime, to be applied in cybercrime cases as well.

Other items on the manifesto include proposal to allow the federal government to assist private-sector firms in boosting their cybersecurity, but only when invited. The move can be seen as a response to increased incidents of targeted attacks often aimed at cyberespionage (eg Aurora and oil firm cyber-spying) over recent months.

Other plans include proposals to develop federal data breach disclosure rules to replace the current range of fragmented state laws as well as making it compulsory for critical infrastructure firms (banks, utilities, transport, telecoms etc) to disclose data breach incidents to the Department of Homeland Security. Legal experts told Wired that these aspects of the proposal were vague and without a proper enforcement regime. "You're absolutely free to set up the weakest security you want [under this proposal], and unless you're in one of those regulated spots like financial services, there's no consequence to it," said Fred Cate, law professor and director of the Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research at Indiana University.

A summary of the White House's cybersecurity plans can be found here. ®

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