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Priti Patel announces plans to review computer misuse laws

·2-min read

Home Secretary Priti Patel has said the UK must “strengthen” its position as a cyber power as she announced plans to bolster cybersecurity laws.

She told the CyberUK conference that the Government will formally review the Computer Misuse Act and could update the law to “maintain the UK’s competitive edge and counter the threats” the country faces.

Ms Patel said the UK faced a wide range of threats in the digital world and must “bolster its cyber resilience” in order to meet the evolving threat.

The review of the Computer Misuse Act will look at how to bring about harsher punishments for hacking offences and online fraud as well as online crimes against children.

The Home Secretary said it was vital the Government had “the right tools and mechanisms to detect, disrupt and deter our adversaries”.

“It is critical that Government has all the right levers available to it to ensure that those who commit criminal acts in the cyberspace are effectively investigated by law enforcement and prosecuted by our criminal justice system, including those who have perpetrated the most heinous and appalling crimes against children and those committing serious fraud,” she told the cybersecurity conference.

Ms Patel described the scale of cybercrime as “truly shocking” as she highlighted that in the year to September 2020, there were around 1.7 million cybercrimes against adults in England and Wales and the cost of such crimes, including the theft of data or images, was estimated to be more than £1 billion.

“These are not just statistics, the impact of these breaches and attacks have a profound, lasting impact on people, their lives and livelihoods,” she said.

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“These crimes are not victimless, they cause real harm to people and businesses.”

The Home Secretary’s remarks came after a warning earlier in the conference from the head of GCHQ, Jeremy Fleming, who said the UK faced a “moment of reckoning” around its cybersecurity amid a rising threat from cybercriminals and hostile states such as Russia and China.

Mr Fleming said the UK’s “prosperity and security” was at stake and could suffer if it did not continue to evolve as “significant technology leadership” is “moving east”.