No more Mr Nice Guy: UK gets tough on hi-tech criminals

Posted by   Virus Bulletin on   Aug 1, 2003

Welsh virus-writer shown justice, not mercy

London’s Court of Appeal has turned down Welsh virus writer Simon Vallor’s appeal to shorten his two-year custodial sentence. Vallor, who was convicted on three counts of releasing a computer virus contravening the Computer Misuse Act 1990, claimed at the time (as is the virus writer’s wont) that he had been ignorant of the extent of damage his actions would cause. At the Court of Appeal, Vallor’s counsel argued that the 22-year-old’s sentence should be shortened on account of his relative youth, previous good character and the fact he cooperated with the police.

Unfortunately for Vallor, the judges failed to be moved by the argument. Mr Justice Aikens deemed Vallor’s acts to be both calculated and disruptive and dismissed the appeal. VB applauds the Court of Appeal for standing firm — the deterrent effect of the few cases in which virus writers have been successfully prosecuted appears to be low already, without offenders being let off their full sentences for such insubstantial reasons.

Meanwhile, the British Home Office has announced plans for a new e-crime strategy aimed at increasing the number of hi-tech criminals that are caught and prosecuted. The strategy will focus on both old crimes committed using new technology, and newer crimes, such as denial of service attacks and hacking. It will also provide an analysis of the current and likely future nature of e-crime, producing a framework for Government, law enforcement agencies and industry, and will ensure that existing international agreements, such as the EU Framework Decision on Attacks Against Information Systems stand up to the challenges posed by hi-tech crime. Junior Home Office Minister Caroline Flint said: ‘The Government has invested £25 million in combating hi-tech crime, setting up the National Hi-tech Crime Unit, within the National Crime Squad, and helping local forces to fight e-crime. But we need to do more, and [to] coordinate and focus our efforts. Our e-crime strategy will bring together industry and law enforcement agencies to deliver an enhanced and robust response to the prevention, detection and prosecution of e-crime.’ The strategy is scheduled to be produced by February 2004.

With recent reports (see http://www.sophos.com/pressoffice/pressrel/uk/20030630topten.html) suggesting that the number of new viruses in the first six months of this year is up 17.5% on the same period last year, any plans to crack down further on virus writers are certainly welcome. However, whether virus writers are likely to be deterred by this news would seem doubtful — we can only hope that once the strategy is put into effect we will see a significant increase in the number of successful prosecutions and a corresponding impact on the virus-writing community.

Posted on 01 August 2003 by Virus Bulletin

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