The UK government believes hackers who cause "catastrophic" damage should be imprisoned for life, Queen Elizabeth II said in a speech today, proposing a crime bill that would update the 1990 Computer Misuse Act.
The bill targets "cyberattacks which result in loss of life, serious illness or injury or serious damage to national security, or a significant risk thereof," as well as attempts to steal trade secrets.
Opponents say the bill is misguided because there already exist laws under which hackers would be prosecuted for causing that kind of damage. Criminalizing the act specifically for hackers would threaten legitimate security research that unearths vulnerabilities like the Heartbleed bug, security researchers told The Guardian.
A similar debate is happening in the US, where some activists say the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act used to prosecute hackers is already overzealous.
The proposed changes in the UK would mean industrial espionage hackers are eligible for 14 years in prison instead of 10, and hackers who cause damage to individuals or to national security should be eligible for life sentences.