The British government has proposed sharply increasing penalties for computer crimes that are taking a financial toll on U.K. businesses.

The Police and Justice Bill would amend the Computer Misuse Act of 1990, a Home Office spokeswoman said Friday. It would increase the maximum penalty for unauthorized modification of a computer from five years to 10 years, a provision that would cover all forms of DDOS (distributed denial of service) attacks, she said.

If passed into law, those convicted of unauthorized access to a computer could face up to a two-year prison sentence, up from six months.

“Over the last 18 months there have been a lot of high-profile DOS attacks which have in turn been accompanied by extortion requests against U.K. online bookmakers,” the spokeswoman said.

The National Hi-Tech Crime Unit estimated e-crime cost U.K.-based companies with more than 1,000 employees

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