Hacker or Terrorist? Both.

21.09.2001

European Commission: Attacks on information systems punishable as a terrorist offense

The European Commission is seeking to require every member of the European Union to make "attacks through interference with an information system" punishable as a terrorist offense if it is aimed at "seriously altering or destroying the political, economic, or social structures."

The proposal is part of a framework decision on combating terrorism launched on Wednesday by the EC. The Commission is seeking a European definition and harmonization of laws and penalties related to terrorism.

According to the Commission, attacks on information systems are a new form of terrorism.

"There have been several recent occasions where tensions in international relations have led to a spate of attacks against information systems. More serious attacks could lead not only to serious damage but even, in some cases, to loss of life (...) Although terrorist offenses committed by computer or electronic devices are apparently less violent, they can be as threatening as the offenses previously mentioned, endangering not only [the] life, health or safety of people but the environment as well. Their main characteristic is that their effect is intentionally produced at a distance from the perpetrators, but their consequences may also be much more far-reaching. Therefore, terrorist offenses releasing contaminating substances or causing fires, floods or explosions; interfering with or disrupting the supply of water, power or other fundamental resource; and interference with an information system are included."

Therefore, attacks through interference with an information system, which have the aim of seriously altering or destroying the political, economical or social structures should be punishable as a terrorist offense.

Member States must ensure that a maximum penalty that is no less than five years will be set on information attacks.

The definition of terrorism the Commission proposes is very broad. "Promoting" terrorism will also be a terrorist act. Further, acts of "urban violence" can be defined as terrorist acts.

"Unlawful seizure of or damage to state or government facilities, means of public transport, infrastructure facilities, places of public use, and property (both private and public) are punishable as terrorist acts. This could include, for instance, acts of urban violence," writes the Commission in its proposal.

The proposal does not specifically mention tightened control of the Internet. In the United States and several European countries, law enforcement agencies are pushing for greater control of Internet, for instance, by restricting the use of encryption and creating more possibilities for interception. Later this month, the European Telecommunication Council will discuss recent proposals related to privacy on the Internet.

The storage of traffic data is one of the hottest topics. As the recent attacks on the United States are having the immediate effect of an increase in the powers of intelligence agencies and the police, it is possible the Council will decide in favor of the demands of the law enforcement agencies.

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