Are Cybercriminals Willing To Risk Death?

Whoa…here’s what should be a good cybercrime deterrent…

“Pakistan: Criminal Law – Penalty for “Cyber-Crime” Enhanced
“(Nov. 24, 2008) Cyber-terrorism will be subject to the death penalty in Pakistan, according to a decree issued by the President of the country on November 6, 2008. The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Ordinance will be applicable to anyone who commits a crime detrimental to national security through the use of a computer or any other electronic device, and it will apply to Pakistanis and foreigners alike, whether living in Pakistan or abroad.
The offense of cyber-terrorism is defined as accessing a computer network or electronic system by someone who then “knowingly engages in or attempts to engage in a terroristic act.” According to the several definitions in the Ordinance, the term “terroristic act” includes stealing or copying, or attempting to steal or copy, classified information necessary to manufacture any form of chemical, biological, or nuclear weapon.
Other offenses for which punishments, ranging from 3 to 10 years in prison, are provided include illegal electronic entry into systems of any sensitive installation, electronic fraud, electronic forgery, system damage, unauthorized access to electronic codes, and misuse of encryption. (Pakistan Sets Death Penalty for “Cyber Terrorism,” YAHOO! NEWS, Nov. 6, 2008, available at”

One of the most talented and best students I’ve had while teaching in the Norwich MSIA program over the past 5 years is a business owner in Pakistan. The circumstances with which he had to deal with were unimaginable to most in the U.S. I am still very surprised that he was juggling so much with running a business and taking classes while also having to fear for terrorist attacks at any time, in addition to numerous other threats.
As I read this story I wondered, is this just one of many possible legitimate attempts at cracking down on the terrorists and widespread crime in Pakistan, or is it just a token act? The sanction of death certainly seems extreme, but then again most of us in western countries cannot easily relate to the way law and order is handled in middle eastern countries. And the wording describing a terrorist act is indeed open to interpretation.

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