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Malware makers must pay heavier price

China Daily | Updated: 2018-12-07 07:55
Guangdong provincial department of public security task forces take physical evidence from Cambodian police. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

A NEW COMPUTER VIRUS has spread online, which encrypts the files of an infected computer and displays a QR code on its screen. The victim must scan the code and pay 110 yuan ($16) in order to release the files. ThePaper.cn comments:

The new computer virus is not the only one of its kind. In May last year, Eternal Blue infected millions of computers globally, requiring the victims to pay a ransom in Bitcoins in order to get their computers released.

The new computer virus asks the victim to pay via WeChat, not Bitcoin. With about 900 million users, WeChat is already the most popular social media app in China and its payment function has a 40 percent share of the total third-party payment market.

Besides, the new computer virus is reported to have stolen tens of thousands of usernames and passwords at various online shopping websites, which puts the money of users in threat.

The proliferation of computer viruses is because the punishments are still rather light. In judicial practice, the common charge for spreading computer viruses is "damaging computer systems", and the suspect might face up to five years' imprisonment. Only when the damage is extremely heavy will a malware developer get five years or more in prison, but the courts have very high thresholds for "extremely heavy" damage.

Actually, some of the computer virus developers should be charged under other crimes, too. For example, if they demand money from their victims they could be charged with extortion, which generally leads to more than 10 years in prison. It is time for judiciaries to consider this in future cases.

Also the legal responsibility of online platforms should be made clear. According to the Cybersecurity Law, network business runners are obliged to take measures to ensure the security of their users, by protecting the latter against computer viruses, online attacks, as well as network intrusions. But in practice, seldom has any online platform been sued for failing to protect its users. It is time to activate that legal clause, too.

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