Eveline Lubbers on 20 Feb 2001 13:05:39 -0000

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<nettime> Computer hackers could be classed as terrorists


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Monday February 19, 04:49 PM  

Hackers become terrorists under new law  

By Will Knight  

Computer hackers could be classed as terrorists under a UK law that 
came into force today.  

The Terrorism Act 2000 is designed to prevent dissident political 
groups from using the UK as a base for terrorism and recognises a new 
threat from cyberterrorists for the first time.  

But the Act also significantly widens the definition of terrorism to 
include those actions that "seriously interfere with or seriously 
disrupt an electronic system". According to the Act this only applies 
to actions "designed to influence the government or to intimidate the 
public", but it will be up to police investigators to decide when 
this is the case. The Act gives police the power to detain suspects 
for 48-hours without a warrant.  

Alex Gordon, a partner with London law firm Berwin Leyton and a 
specialist in information technology law, said the act gives police 
significant new powers over computer criminals. "The Act does catch 
serious computer hacking," he said.  

Gordon said it is unlikely that the act could be used to target all 
computer hackers. However,he said the legislation is so new that 
guidelines still need to be drawn up.  

Just as many marginal political groups fear that the new legislation 
could lead to the suppression of legitimate offline demonstrations, 
some cyberactivists are concerned that it could stifle legitimate 
Internet protest.  

UK ISP GreenNet, which hosts a variety of Web sites belonging to 
political activists and campaigners, could be affected by the Act. 
GreenNet consultant and online activist Paul Mobbs, who has 
coordinated protests through his site, Electrohippies, says that the 
Act may result in Internet campaigns being controlled.  

"As more people get on the Internet, it inevitably becomes 
politicised," he says. "If a group did an email campaign to the prime 
minister and that disrupted an email system that could be defined as 

Mobbs believes that the Act could even be used by a authoritarian 
government to stop legitimate political activism.  

Mobbs courted controversy in March 2000 when he created a point-and-
click method of attacking the World Trade Organisation's Web sites as 
part of global protests against capitalism.  

The government has broadened the definition of terrorism to include 
computer-related activity because it is concerned that militant 
groups are increasingly turning to computer hacking techniques. 
Internet activism is becoming more evident, with politically-
motivated computer hackers, or "hacktivists", defacing Web pages with 
political messages and blocking off Internet sites for political 

Home secretary Jack Straw has signalled that he intends to clamp down 
on those exploiting computers and the Internet to perpetrate 
terrorist activity under the new Act.  

"[Terrorists] are no respecters of borders and are continuously 
developing new approaches and techniques," says Straw. "With the 
implementation of the Terrorism Act 2000, the UK is making a very 
firm statement of our intent to combat terrorism, with every 
legitimate means at our disposal, whenever and wherever it occurs."  

The growth of cyberterrorism has been made particularly evident in 
the activities of Palestinian and Israeli hackers, playing their part 
in the ongoing Middle East conflict. Their online feud, dubbed an "e-
Jihad", has seen protagonists deface and block politically opposed 
Web sites and bombard enemies with avalanches of email.  

Evidence suggests that this type of activism is growing in popularity 
among other regional militant groups.  

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