Defining And Punishing Cybercrimes

Unnoticed by many of us, it was in the news early this week that the House of Representative’s Committee on Information and Communications Technology approved a consolidated bill defining cybercrimes and providing safeguards and penalties to protect the privacy and confidentiality of certain types of information. The proposed law consolidated at least nine related bills on the subject and will be known as The Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2011. Actually, a cybercrime bill was approved by the House of Representatives in the last Congress but failed to pass the Senate. This time, the Senate version of the proposed law is already on second reading.

Under the bill, cybercrimes are categorized into offenses against the confidentiality, integrity and availability of computer data and systems, computer-related offenses, and content-related offenses. If finally passed and signed into law, the measure would penalize cyberstalking and defamation over social media. This means Internet libel will now be punishable under the proposed law.

Computer forgery and computer-related fraud constitute computer-related offenses while cyber sex, unsolicited commercial communications, cyber defamation and cyber threats are included under content-related offenses. The amended definition of cyber pornography and cybersex deleted the portion defining them to include payments. The deletion makes lewd exhibition on cyberspace a crime per se.

Also, under the bill, illegal access, illegal interception, data interference, system interference, misuse of devices fall under offenses against confidentiality and provide that threats to life and national security as requirements for which a court order may be issued for the interception of data. With this provision, telecom companies must protect the integrity and confidentiality of stored information of their clients and should not be furnishing people other than subscribers their traffic data.

The proposed law recognized the increasingly vital role of information and communications technology (ICT) as enabler of key industries such as banking, broadcasting, business process outsourcing, electronic commerce and telecommunications, and as a driving force for the nation’s overall social and economic development. It emphasized the need to protect and safeguard the integrity of computer and communications systems, networks and databases, and the confidentiality, integrity and availability of information and data stored therein, from all forms of misuse, abuse and illegal access by making such conduct punishable under the law.

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