Tougher penalties for cybercrimes are underway

published in

1 de June de 2021


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Punishment for crimes committed over the internet may become similar to crimes against life

Last week, Law No. 14,155 was sanctioned, enhancing the seriousness of cybercrimes. And that’s not all. The law now specifies new modalities of cybercrime and provides for severe punishment for their perpetrators.

The amendment was structured on two main axes. The first modified the so-called “Carolina Dieckmann Law”, which has an interesting story behind its enactment. It replaced a rather poor internet criminalization bill proposed by former Congressman Eduardo Azeredo.

Later, it ended up becoming the first specific legislation to deal with cybercrimes in Brazil and was named after the actress who had been a victim of data theft (it is worth mentioning that this columnist participated as a consultant in the drafting of the bill).

Last week’s modification has preserved the original wording, which is a point in its favor. However, it increased punishment for those who “hack into a computer device” to one to four years in prison. Also, the new law provides for even harsher penalties for “theft perpetrated through fraud when using an electronic or computer device.” In this case, perpetrators will be punished with four to eight years in prison.

If the crime is committed against an elderly or vulnerable person, the punishment may double. If the attacker uses an Internet server kept outside the national territory, the punishment is increased by one-third to two-thirds.

Even so, although these amendments are positive, lawmakers may have exaggerated the prison term. When aggravating factors are considered, punishment for cybercrimes may become equivalent to that applied to crimes against life. Once again, this distorts the Brazilian penal system, which tends to punish crimes against property more severely than crimes against life.

To be clear, I think the idea of increasing punishment is a good one. However, the enhancement may have gone too far.
The punishment for online fraud, another form of crime that has become commonplace, has also been increased. As of now, the individual who deceives someone into providing information through social media, causing damage, and obtaining illicit advantage, can also be punished with four to eight years in prison.

The enhancement of the seriousness of such a crime helps to punish the so-called “WhatsApp scams” that have become widespread. However, prevention remains the best way to protect yourself. Anyone using WhatsApp (and any other online service such as email or social networking) should enable two-factor identification, i.e., to set not only a strong password to access the service but also another form of authentication, such as receiving a verification code on your smartphone.

Specifically in the case of WhatsApp, it is paramount to enable a PIN, which is a numeric password that is not activated by default when the app is installed. Also, another security tip is to restrict your WhatsApp profile photo to “Contacts Only.” In many scams, the perpetrator simply steals the user’s picture and uses it on another account, while pretending to be them.

Basics of cybersecurity coupled with timely (and weighted) law amendments have come in handy to help tackle the spread of such crimes. Particularly at a time when many have been working from home, over the internet.

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