EU to unify e-crime rules

Friday, 28 March 2003, 12:13 PM EST

The Council of the European Union has agreed a common approach for its forthcoming anti-hacking regulations, which member states must adopt into their national law by 31 December 2003. The Council framework decision on attacks against information systems will require member states to make unauthorised access to computer systems a criminal offence.

Precise details of the framework and suggested penalties for offences have yet to be formally announced. However, the initial proposal of April 2002 called for a maximum penalty in serious cases of at least one year's imprisonment.

Security experts welcomed the council's interest in harmonising anti-hacking laws across Europe. "IT security is suffering from inconsistency both technically and legislatively at the moment," said Mark Lillycrop, chief executive of research firm Arcati. "Any attempts to provide a united European approach to combating cyber crime have to be applauded." He added that the forthcoming regulations should reduce the opportunities for hackers to exploit legal loopholes or seek refuge in countries with more liberal laws.

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