Philippine leader signs law to combat cybercrimes

Philippine President Benigno Aquino has signed into law a bill to combat cybercrime, his spokeswoman said Saturday, in a bid to stamp down on everything from forgery to child pornography.

The bill will be a boost to law-enforcers who have previously complained of difficulty charging people who use the Internet to commit crimes as there were no legal codes that penalise their acts.

Aquino's spokeswoman Abigail Valte said the bill covered most forms of hacking, defining cybercrimes to include "offences against the confidentiality, integrity and availability" of a computer system, as well as gaining illegal access to or interception of data.

The bill also defines "computer-related offences" for forgery, fraud, identity theft, cybersex and child pornography.

Spamming as well as "cyber-squatting" -- the use of an Internet domain name to mislead consumers, destroy other's reputations or prevent them from using their name -- were included in the bill.

The law also punishes libel, Valte said, though asked if this would cover even messages sent on social network websites such as Twitter, she added the state would "leave it up to other lawyers to determine".

The bill also calls for the creation of a "Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center" that will implement the law, she said.

Valte did not say what penalties will be imposed for different offences under the new law.

In 2000, two Filipino computer students were accused of releasing the "ILOVEYOU" computer virus that infected computers worldwide, destroying millions of computer files and causing millions of dollars in damage.

However the two suspects could not be charged because there was no law against computer hacking in the country.

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