Unique Bill to Tackle Cyber Crime Launched In Parliament
Digital and Technology Misuse Bill
9th March 2016
A Private Members Bill to update the law on cybercrime will be introduced today in the House of Commons by Liz Saville-Roberts MP. The Bill will tackle the huge rise in online crime over the last ten years.
The Bill was drafted by Harry Fletcher and the Digital-Trust, CIC. It has support from members of the Scottish Nationalist, Plaid Cymru, Social Democratic and Labour, Conservative and Labour Parties.
There has been an unprecedented rise in cybercrime over the most recent period.
The College of Policing have estimated that half of all crimes reported to front line officers now have a cyber element. Police cyber experts believe that there are as many as seven million online frauds each year and three million other online crimes. The majority are not reported.
The Police are inundated with complaints of online abuse, much of which contains discriminatory, racist, anti-Semitic, sexist or homophobic content. There are victims of domestic abuse, harassment and stalking whose abusers use mobiles, social media and other technology to monitor and intimidate them.
There is also crime which is technology-enabled. This is when criminals use technology to plan or help facilitate a crime, such as the gang grooming and exploiting young women in Rotherham.
Both the Police and Crown Prosecution Service are struggling to cope. The Police in particular are falling behind as the criminals become more adept at using different types of technology to carry out traditional and new types of crime.
The key to a successful prosecution is knowing what law might apply, and be able to prove beyond reasonable doubt the perpetrator broke that law. That is a challenge because technology and crime are both changing so quickly that laws aren’t keeping up to date.
There are over thirty existing statutes that the Digital-Trust has identified which need to be consolidated. The Computer Misuse Act of 1990 is just one of them. Its original purpose was to be able to prosecute those attacking computers, hacking into computers or networks, in order to compromise their operation or steal data.
It has never been effective in addressing the much wider aspects of technology-enabled Cybercrime. Over the last 25 years, there has been an average of 1.5 findings of guilt per month.
The Bill consolidates a range of legislation and statutes that can be applied to cybercrime and to technology-enabled offences. This will bring clarity to those activities which are illegal, and greater simplicity for the police and the Crown Prosecution Service.
In addition, the Bill updates the law in key areas such as surveillance, monitoring and abusive content. It includes:
- Making it a clear offence to repeatedly use new technology to locate, listen to or watch an individual without legitimate reason.
- Making it illegal to install spyware on devices, or fit covert webcams to premises, without valid reason.
- Clarifying that the online posting of messages which are discriminatory, threatening, or cause distress or anxiety, are offences.
- Extending the current definition of Malicious Communications to include those which are true, but nevertheless distributed with a view to causing distress or anxiety.
The Bill also places responsibilities on Social media platforms and Industry to adhere to measures including:
- Agreeing to a code of Professional Standards.
- Carrying out risk assessments for potential vulnerable users of their product, and/or any new features.
- Linking multiple abuse reports from users, to identify those who are being harassed or at risk.
- Conducting impact assessments in respect of customers.
- Blocking offensive, inciteful or violent postings; and
- Co-operating with and informing the police if they become aware of any wrong doing.
All new offences named in the Bill carry on conviction the possibility of imprisonment of between 6 and 12 months.
The authorities will be required to produce practice guidelines for Criminal Justice staff and victims, both immediately and in the future as new technology-enabled crime evolves.
The Secretary of State must also ensure that all Criminal Justice staff including the police and Crown Prosecution Service are properly trained.
Harry Fletcher, Director of the Digital-Trust said today:
“There has been a massive surge in cybercrime in the last few years. Criminals and abusers readily use technology and it is imperative that the Criminal Justice System must catch up. Most victims do not report cybercrimes, either because they are unaware that it is an offence, or because they do not believe that the police will react, or because they think it is activity that they simply have to tolerate.”
He added “The Criminal Justice system is facing a crisis, it needs the tools to address digital crime, victims need support and redress. The existing laws are fragmented and inadequate and must be made fit for purpose without delay”.
Link to the: Criminal Offences (Misuse of Digital Technologies and Services) (Consolidation) Bill
Link to the: Explanatory Notes