Friday, December 26, 2008

China consider tough penalties on hackers

CHINA : China consider tough penalties on hackers




BEIJING, Dec. 22 (Xinhua) -- Computer hackers could meet tough penalties under a draft amendment of the criminal law being debated by China's top legislature.

The draft amendment under review by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) would impose steep fines and prison sentences of three-to-seven years, depending on the severity of the offense.

The existing criminal law only imposes penalties on hackers who break into government, military and scientific research institutes' computer systems.

"The articles in the draft amendment filled in the blank of the existing law by expanding the definition of the offended," said Prof. Yu Gang, with the College of Criminal Justice under China University of Political Science and Law.

Under the current criminal law, most hackers would not be charged for breaking into a bank or business's computer system, he said.

He Changchun, 71, who runs a digital photo printing service in northeastern Liaoning Province, was hacked by a rival two years ago. Thousands of photos his clients sent to him disappeared.

His rival, who goes by the name Shang, stole the password to online chatting software used by He and his employees to contact clients and receive their photos. These photos were kept in a rented FTP server.

Shang was able to use the password to destroy photos on the server.

In December this year, a court convicted Shang for "malfeasance competition" instead of hacking.

This kind of sabotage becomes more common as China's Internet users continue to grow in number. China recorded the world's most users at 290 million in November.

The notorious computer virus "Xiongmao Shaoxiang", or "Panda burning joss stick," infected millions of computers from November 2006 to March 2007.

The virus, with a signature flash image of a panda holding three joss sticks, not only crippled computers, but also stole the account names and passwords of online game players and popular chat sites.

People generally think of hackers as computer geniuses, but 90 percent of them are not, Yu said.

"There are many ready-made hacker tools that make hacking quite easy," he said. "A business of training hackers, making computer viruses, selling them and stealing information, is emerging."

The draft amendment also expands prosecution to those who develop and distribute hacking software. They would face similar penalties as hackers.

The draft did not touch cross-border hacking -- a topic that roused hot discussion among the public.

"The criminal law has clear regulations. Either a crime or the result of a crime happens in China, the case is under our jurisdiction," Yu said.

And, if the suspect is a Chinese citizen, he or she will not be delivered to foreign countries for trial, Yu said.

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