In order to combat the rising tide of cybercrime, the Japanese government has enacted a sweeping new law that criminalizes the creation of computer viruses and grants broad powers to law enforcement investigating computer crimes. The new legislation became law this past Friday, and is meant to provide new tools to Japanese police who perviously had no domestic laws with which to prosecute cyber criminals.
According to The Mainichi Daily News, the law carries a three year jail sentence and fines in excess of $6,000 (500,000 Yen) for creating and distributing computer viruses, and lesser fines and jail time for acquiring and storing viruses. Fortunately for computer security researchers, the law provides a “reasonable cause” caveat. The law also makes it illegal to send pornographic email spam.
Not everyone is happy about the new law, however. There are some concerns over language in the law which allows law enforcement to seize or copy data from computers connected via networks to computers used to commit virus-related crimes. Investigators can also seize and retain electronic communication records for up to 60 days. This has caused some controversy in the country, as Japan’s constitution guarantees the privacy of communications. The Japanese government has sought to quell concerns by including a directive that the law be applied appropriately.
The adoption of the law reflects the escalating concern over cybercrime across the international stage. The creation of this domestic law in Japan concludes some of the provisions of the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime, of the which the US is also a signer. The recent policy statements from the White House on cyber crime were derived from the same treaty. Of course, how well these new laws will function remains to be seen.
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