Lawyers fear misuse of cyber murder law

Monday, 25 November 2002, 3:16 PM EST

A genuine cyber murder may never happen outside the pages of tabloid newspapers and Tom Clancy novels, but defense attorneys say that won't keep federal prosecutors from getting some mileage out of a provision in the newly-passed Homeland Security bill that dictates a maximum sentence of life imprisonment without parole for computer hackers with homicide in their hearts.

One of many information security and cybercrime measures in the 484-page bill - which won final approval in the Senate Tuesday - the life sentence is reserved for those who deliberately transmit a program, information, code, or command that impairs the performance of a computer or modifies its data without authorization, "if the offender knowingly or recklessly causes or attempts to cause death".

If the attacker only causes or attempts to cause bodily injury through hacking, the crime carries a 20-year sentence.

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