Senate passes Cyber Crimes Bill

Senate passes Cyber Crimes Bill

Saturday, December 19, 2009

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THE Senate on Friday pushed through the Cyber Crimes Bill, inching Jamaica closer to the point where it will be able to prosecute hackers and persons who send unsolicited pop-ups and rip of persons by accessing their personal data.

The Bill, which was passed with eight amendments, will see persons convicted of breaches facing a maximum sentence of 10 years' imprisonment and a minimum of two years; or slapped with fines ranging from between $2 million and $5 million.

The legislation which addresses the protection of intellectual property on the worldwide web, as well as hacking, seeks to prevent the misuse of data by making it illegal for persons to invade the privacy of individuals who suppy information, such as their credit card number. It will also address the issue of pornography, so that persons will not have all kinds of material forced upon them over the Internet.

In August, Cyber Crime Investigation and Research Unit boss Detective Sergeant Patrick Linton told the Observer that a number of corporate entities have been buying information stolen from competing businesses by computer hackers in an effort to gain or maintain market advantage. Linton said his unit happened upon the practice in recent months following a search of several computers seized by the police, while investigating several unrelated matters. He had, however, expressed frustration over the absence of legislation to help the police take the matters to a satisfactory conclusion.

On Friday, Leader of Government Business in the Senate, Attorney General and Justice Minister Senator Dorothy Lightbourne said the long awaited Act would allow law enforcement officials to "properly investigate and prosecute cyber crimes". It would also provide criminal sanctions for the unauthorised access to and use of computer systems and data, and for crimes facilitated by the misuse of computer systems and data.

"Many in the business community have been calling for this Bill for sometime," Lightbourne said further, noting that it will pose a significant threat to the thriving Lotto scam which has been feeding criminality in Jamaica.

More recently, 26-year-old computer science student Philpott Martin has been hauled before the Courts for allegedly hacking into the system of telecoms giant Digicel and stealing more than $10 million in calling credit.

Martin was charged with three counts of simple larceny and one count of conspiracy to defraud due to the lack of cyber crime legislation under which he could be prosecuted.

A number of attorneys elsewhere have also agitated for the passage of the Law, expressing concerns over a number of cases in the Resident Magistrate's Courts in which nude photographs of women engaged in sexual acts with their partners have been publicised when the relationship ends.

The Act will be reviewed in two years.

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