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Spyware bill passed in US House of Representatives

Penalty of up to five years in prison

An antispyware bill was passed by the US House of Representatives yesterday, on a voice vote.

The bill, which was sponsored by California Democrat Zoe Lofgren and Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican, would make it illegal to access a computer without authorisation to commit another federal crime, such as a computer scam. Such offences could lead to up to five years in prison, while obtaining or transmitting personal information with the aim of defrauding or injuring someone carries a penalty of up to two years in prison, as does damaging a computer.

In addition, the bill would provide the DoJ (Department of Justice) with $10m annually over four years to deal with phishing - or the use of fraudulent email addresses or websites to lure unsuspecting victims to provide personal information such as credit-card numbers - and pharming, which involves hackers redirecting traffic to fake internet sites to fraudulently obtain personal data.

Trade groups praised passage of the bill. The Interactive Advertising Bureau called it "a major step" to make the internet safe and secure and said it looks forward to "working with the Senate to enact a strong, sensible federal antispyware law".

That will be the next hurdle the measure faces. The Senate has yet to approve such a bill.

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