Hackers deemed terrorists under new U.K. law

Hackers now have a new tag in the U.K.: cyberterrorists. Under the Terrorism Act 2000, enacted into law beginning Monday, people who endanger lives though the manipulation of public computer systems will be punished under the anti-terrorism law as would any other terrorist.

“There isn’t a specific section that deals with cybercrime as such, it is covered within the various sections, but anyone who seriously interferes with, or seriously disrupts an electronic system will be dealt with under the anti-terrorism law,” said a spokesman for the Home Office, the government department that oversees immigration and crime.

The Terrorism Act is intended to extend the definition of what is legally a terrorist and now includes, along with violent foreign groups such as the Irish Republican Army (IRA) or Hezbollah, any U.K.-based group planning an attack outside of the United Kingdom or any group threatening or planning “serious violence” within the United Kingdom. That can include hackers or political protestors if their actions or intentions “turn violent,” the spokesman said.

Under the new powers, the police now have the authority to determine what they deem to be “violent” and whom they feel comes under the legal definition of a “terrorist.”

The vague nature of the Terrorism Act immediately came under criticism from politicians outside of the ruling Labour Party.

“The legislation, which gives the authorities extra powers should have to be renewed by parliament regularly rather than being permanent legislation. The definition of terrorism is also far too wide, in spite of significant efforts by Liberal Democrats and others in parliament to improve it,” said Simon Hughes MP, Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary in an official statement. The Liberal Democrats are the third largest political party in the United Kingdom.

The Terrorism Act 2000 can be found online at http://www.legislation.hmso.gov.uk/acts/acts2000/20000011.htm. The Home Office, in London, can be contacted at http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/.