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EU crackdown will see tougher sentences for stupid cyber-badhats

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The European Parliament has agreed to toughen criminal penalties across the EU for cyber attacks, especially any that threaten national infrastructure or are deemed to be aimed at stealing sensitive data.

The new directive forces the 28 member states to impose national maximum sentences of at least two years in prison for trying to break into any information systems. But if the attack is against a critical infrastructure network, like a power plant, transport or government network, the maximum penalty jumps to at least five years, higher than most member states currently have in force. Maximum sentences also go up to at least three years for botnet attacks or cyber intrusions that result in financial costs or loss of personal data.

"I am pleased that formal approval has been reached on new rules concerning the definition of criminal offences and the sanctions in the area of cybercrime," the EU commish for home affairs Cecilia Malmström said. "The perpetrators of increasingly sophisticated attacks and the producers of related and malicious software can now be prosecuted, and will face heavier criminal sanctions."

But security bods aren't so sure that upping the jail time is the right way to go about defeating cybercrime. Etay Maor, fraud prevention manager at security firm Trusteer, said that governments needed to be aware that the people behind cyber attacks like botnets were often nowhere near the actual attack.

"Unfortunately, in most cases the people who get caught are the money mules (that may not even be aware they are committing a crime) and not the bot masters or ring leaders," he said. "To apprehend these masterminds, law enforcement agencies will need to have cooperation with local agencies all around the world.

"This is not an easy task, and cyber-criminals know this. This is why they usually reside in a country where they will stay safe from most western governments."

The directive is also trying to improve communication and cooperation between law enforcement in European countries. According to the new rules, member states will be under an obligation to answer urgent requests from each other within eight hours and will be required to collect basic statistical data on cybercrimes.

"Together with the launch of the European Cybercrime Centre and the adoption of the EU Cyber-security Strategy, the new Directive will strengthen our overall response to cybercrime and contribute to improve cyber security for all our citizens," Malmström said.

Individual countries will have two years two years to input the decision into national law. ®

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