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Saudi passes cybercrime laws

The council responsible for enacting laws in Saudi Arabia has passed the Kingdom's first legislation to address the rise in electronic crime.

The 120-member Shoura Council last week approved all 16 sections of the law, which deals with offences such as hacking, defamation and the spread of terrorism.

The legislation, which was drawn up by the Kingdom's Commission for Telecommunications and Information Technology, will become law once it is published in the government's official gazette within the next 120 days.

Abdul Rahman Al-Yami, head of the Shoura's Communications and Information Technology Committee, said the law was aimed at protecting individuals, companies and organisations from being defamed or harmed via the internet.

The maximum punishment under the new legislation is a prison sentence of ten years and a fine of US$1.3million, which can be imposed on anyone found guilty of hacking into government networks to steal information related to national security or using the internet in support of terrorism.

Creating web sites that defame humanity, advocate drug use or that contain pornographic material can lead to sentences of up to five years in prison and/or a fine of US$1.3million. The same punishment will also apply to anyone found guilty of creating web sites or programs that violate any of the Kingdom's general laws, Islamic values or public ethics. Any person who gains unauthorised access to a public network or who installs viruses on that network will be subject to a fine of around US$800,000 and/or up to four years in prison.

Anyone found guilty of unauthorised possession of electronic documents will face three years in prison, and a sentence of one year in prison will be given to anyone convicted of gaining unauthorised access to electronic networks, hacking into web sites to change or damage their contents or using the internet for defamatory purposes.

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