Hackers now have a new tag in the UK: cyberterrorists. Under the Terrorism Act 2000, which becomes law on Mondau, those who endanger lives though the manipulation of public computer systems will be prosecuted as terrorists.
"Anyone who seriously interferes with, or seriously disrupts, an electronic system will be dealt with under the anti-terrorism law," said a spokesman for the Home Office.
The Terrorism Act is intended to extend the legal definition of terrorism. Along with groups such as the IRA or Hezbollah, it now includes UK-based groups planning an attack outside the UK, or groups threatening or planning 'serious violence' within the UK. That can include hackers or political protestors if their actions or intentions 'turn violent', the spokesman said.
Under the new powers, police will have the authority to determine those they deem to be 'violent' and who they feel come under the legal definition of a 'terrorist'.
The vague nature of the Terrorism Act immediately came under criticism from non-Labour politicians.
"The legislation, which gives the authorities extra powers, should be renewed by Parliament regularly rather than being permanent legislation. The definition of terrorism is also far too wide, in spite of significant efforts by Liberal Democrats and others in Parliament to improve it," said Simon Hughes MP, Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary, in an official statement.
The Terrorism Act 2000 can be found online here.