Tue | Jul 23, 2024

Bermuda tightens penalties for cyber-related crimes following major cyber attack last year

Published:Monday | May 20, 2024 | 4:00 PM
Last September, Bermuda suffered a “major cyberattack” that brought down government information technology (IT) services.

HAMILTON, Bermuda, CMC – The Parliament in Bermuda has approved legislation providing for stringent punishment, including life imprisonment, for anyone convicted for offences that cause “a significant risk of serious damage to human welfare or serious damage to national security.”

National Security Minister, Michael Weeks, said that the Computer Misuse Act 2024, which the government said is intended to help battle cyber crime in the British Overseas Territory, will also provide for a $1 million fine.

Weeks told legislators that over the past five years the Department of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has prosecuted only two cases under the existing legislation and that the Computer Misuse Act 1996 was “not conducive” to the present day realities involving the use of computers.

He said the amendments would give police and the DPP the powers needed to investigate and prosecute computer-related offences, saying “this is to bring the legislation into more current status”.

Last September, Bermuda suffered a “major cyber attack” that brought down government information technology (IT) services.

Premier David Burt said an investigation into the cyber attack that severely hampered the government's information systems in September had found circumstantial evidence that personal data may have been exfiltrated.

Under the new legislation, offences will include unauthorised access to computer material, unauthorised access with intent to impede the operation of a computer and unauthorised acts that cause or create a risk of serious damage.

“Damage” was defined in the legislation as damage to human welfare, the environment, the economy or the national security of any country. 

The legislation also makes it an offence to adapt, supply or offer to supply any article to assist in computer crime.

Weeks said the crimes covered in the legislation were serious and should attract significant penalties.

Opposition Leader, Jarion Richardson, said the advancement of technology meant that a large part of modern life was determined by activity on servers and in cloud computers and irreparable damage could be done by bad actors.

He told legislators that it was vital that the island keeps up, even as he acknowledged that he was always concerned by clauses in the legislation that granted ministers regulatory power.

The government has also placed on the Order Paper, the Cybersecurity Act 2024 hat would set up a Cybersecurity Advisory Board and a National Cybersecurity Unit, with a National Cybersecurity Incident Response Team.

That piece of legislation is yet to be debated.

Follow The Gleaner on X, formerly Twitter, and Instagram @JamaicaGleaner and on Facebook @GleanerJamaica. Send us a message on WhatsApp at 1-876-499-0169 or email us at onlinefeedback@gleanerjm.com or editors@gleanerjm.com.