Pa. makes spreading computer viruses illegal

People who intentionally spread a computer virus face a seven-year prison

sentence and a $15,000 fine in Pennsylvania now that Gov. Tom Ridge has

signed a new bill into law. The bill also requires that restitution be paid

for any damages caused.

The bill, which passed the state House and Senate unanimously, makes computer

hacking — including denial-of-service attacks — and the willful spread of

a computer virus a crime. It also defines a computer virus for the first

time.

Existing law regarding the unlawful use of a computer does not include the

introduction of a computer virus as an offense, only the unlawful affects

of its introduction.

The bill was written last year when the Melissa virus hit but was not

created in response to it, said Carmine Camillo, legislative adviser for

Sen. Jane Earll, the sponsor of the bill, which was introduced last year.

Accessing and damaging a computer or system is a felony of the third

degree, facing a seven-year sentence and $15,000 fine. Interfering with

a computer, system or network, or giving out a password or other confidential

information about a system, is a misdemeanor of the first degree, with a

maximum penalty of five years and a $10,000 fine.

If convicted, the defendant must repay the victim for the cost of repairing

or replacing the system infected, for lost profits for the period that the

system was not usable, and for replacing or restoring lost or damaged data.

Camillo said the level of restitution would be left to the judge.

Ridge signed the bill in May, and it goes into effect at the end of

this month.

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