Virus writers earn gaol time

Cyber criminals caught spreading viruses face up to 10 years imprisonment under new laws being introduced to the NSW Parliament in November.

Attorney general Bob Debus has drafted new plans to update the Crimes Act to ensure it covers offences such as interfering with electronic communication and identity theft.

Spokeswoman for the Attorney general Judy Brookman said the present act covers some computer offences but the amendments specifically target the spreading of malicious viruses.

Due to the havoc caused by viruses in the past including the ILoveYou bug and Melissa, Brookman said the new laws carry harsh penalties to deter offenders.

She said more than 53,000 computer viruses have been identified in recent years and the ILoveYou bug cost business $6.7 billion worldwide in just five days.

The amendments create a new offence of "unauthorised impairment of electronic communication". They also include increased penalties for interfering with credit card information or other data held on computer carrying a sentence of five years or more. The changes ensure existing indictable offences such as fraud and forgery apply to computers.

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