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Senate green-lights legislation to help combat cybercrime

The Computer Misuse Act includes a $1 million fine or life imprisonment for cybercrime offences

The Senate has approved legislation to help battle cybercrime on the island after a vote in the Upper House.

The Computer Misuse Act 2024 passed yesterday after senators clashed over a clause giving the Minister of National Security powers to make regulations and amend other legislation.

The Reverend Emily Gail Dill, Junior Minister for National Security and Transport, said the legislation was first in a series updating Bermuda’s cybercrime laws.

She said while the upcoming Cybersecurity Act entailed protection against cyberthreats, the Computer Misuse Act focused on criminal offences committed using a computer, including unauthorised access to a computer or IT systems.

It gives police the power to investigate and make arrests in relation to cyber offences, and sets the parameters within which the Department of Public Prosecutions can initiate proceedings against a suspect.

Dr Dill said it also clarified issues on jurisdiction when a cybercrime is committed.

She told the Senate: “It strengthens Bermuda’s international co-operation and ensures that cyber criminals can be investigated, arrested and convicted no matter where the crime is committed.”

She added: “We have witnessed the damage that can be done by those commonly referred to as bad actors, when technology is used for malicious purposes.

“As such, these offences each attract considerable tariffs ranging from imprisonment terms of six months and fines of $18,000, to life imprisonment terms and fines of up to $1 million for offences that create the most risks of harm or actual harm.”

Douglas De Couto, the One Bermuda Alliance senator and shadow finance minister, said he welcomed updates addressing cybercrime.

He said the legislation addresses “denial service attacks”.

“That is when attackers would direct attacks to a computer network system to make it unavailable to users.

“So, you can imagine you wouldn’t be able to access your online banking, government payroll taxes and so forth.”

Dr De Couto voiced concern that Section 17 of the Bill allowed the national security minister to make regulations subject to the legislation.

He said: “This also allows the minister to make consequential amendments to other legislation by regulations subject to negative resolution.

“I don’t understand why, if the Government wants to identify some issues, they cannot just bring legislation in the normal way.”

Dr De Couto highlighted that it allowed the minister to make changes to other Bills.

Independent senator Kiernan Bell said clauses such as Section 17 were known as “Henry VIII clauses”.

“Henry VIII passed legislation back in his day which gave him the power by royal decree, bypassing Parliament.

“They are generally considered undemocratic and bypassing the parliamentary process”

Ms Bell added: “Why it is that this exceptional power to legislate, by subordinate legislation, an Act of Parliament without going through the parliamentary process, bypassing the Parliament, is needed in this case?”

Dr Dill responded that it was “standard for ministers to make amendments that impact other legislation”.

Ms Bell said it was “not, in my understanding, common parliamentary practice at all” for secondary legislation to amend primary legislation, thus circumventing parliamentary process.

She suggested the Senate postpone voting until answers were given.

However, Owen Darrell, the Government Senate leader and Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport, called for voting to proceed.

Opposition Senate leader Robin Tucker objected, seconded by Dr De Couto.

Votes were tied on the third reading of the Bill, allowing the passage to go ahead. Voting on the passage of the Bill also tied, and it was passed.

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Published May 30, 2024 at 7:54 am (Updated May 30, 2024 at 7:53 am)

Senate green-lights legislation to help combat cybercrime

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