The Daily Telegraph

Rip up decades-old rules to fight hackers, say cyber security experts

- By Matthew Field and Gareth Corfield

CYBER security experts have urged the incoming prime minister to tear up a decadesold law that is blocking them from effectivel­y stopping rogue states and criminals from hacking the UK.

Companies representi­ng Britain’s £10bn cyber defence sector have asked Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss to rewrite the 30-yearold Computer Misuse Act, which they said is no longer fit for purpose.

The signatorie­s include the Internet Services Providers’ Associatio­n, which represents BT, Virgin Media and Sky; London-listed cyber security company NCC Group; and Ciaran Martin, the former head of Britain’s cyber security agency.

The current act prevents unauthoris­ed access to computer material, but the signatorie­s argue this is too broad and prevents them from conducting routine scans of the internet to look for bugs that can be exploited by hackers.

Legitimate internet researcher­s in the UK are also prevented from accessing hacked files shared on the dark web to warn victims their data has been stolen. Breaking the Computer Misuse Act can lead to a jail sentence of up to 10 years.

Campaigner­s from the Cyberup group argued the law needs to be updated to include a defence for cyber profession­als engaged in legitimate research. The original act, written in 1990, was mainly designed to protect voicemail systems at a time when few had access to computers.

Ollie Whitehouse, chief technology officer at NCC Group, said: “With cyber threats ever increasing, now is the time for the Government to reform our pre-internet era law to include a statutory defence. Doing so will unleash the full reservoir of talent in the UK cyber security industry in service of our collective national cyber defence.” The signatorie­s added that the UK is at greater risk of hacking attacks following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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