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Yes, maybe we should keep hackers in the clink for YEARS, mulls EU

Watch out black hats, they just might throw away the key

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The EU is pushing through a directive calling for harsher criminal penalties against convicted hackers.

The proposed rules (PDF) set a baseline sentence of two years' imprisonment in cases where hacks are carried out with the intent to cause serious harm, involve circumventing security measures and where no attempt is made to notify website owners or other vulnerable parties about a security breach.

A draft of the paperwork was rubber-stamped last week by the EU Parliament's Civil Liberties Committee ahead of a European Parliament vote on the plans, which is expected to take place in July.

Under the new directive, sentences would be increased to a starting point of five years' imprisonment for cases involving attacks against critical infrastructure systems, such as power plants and transport networks.

Stricter sentences will also apply to offences linked to criminal organisations, or attacks which cause severe damage. Botnet herders and affiliated malware authors will face sentences starting at three years' chokey, assuming the directive is accepted and incorporated into national laws. The directive allows flexibility in imposing more lenient sentences in less severe cases.

The rules cover "intentionally producing and selling tools used to commit" hacking offences while offering defences to cover penetration testing. There's also some protections for whistleblowers.

Commentary on the directive can be found in a blog post by Sophos here. ®

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