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New fraud law to combat phishing

Criminals could get ten years inside under new laws to prevent phishing "kits".

The fight against phishing and organised criminals who send out bogus email purporting to be from banks will get a boost when a new act comes into force early next year.

The Fraud Act 2006 received Royal Assent last week and will close a number of loopholes in a number of preceding laws. One of these loopholes will ban the use of phishing kits. Phishing kits are used to create and send out bogus emails by the millions. Until now, possession of such kits has been difficult to prosecute against.

"One perceived loophole in the old regime was the possession of computer files in preparation for launching a phishing attack," said Struan Robertson, a technology lawyer with Pinsent Masons and editor of legal website out-law.com.

"That loophole is closed by the new Act. When it comes into force, possession of such any software or data for use in a fraud could result in a prison term of up to five years," he added.

The act will also outlaw writing software "knowing that it is designed or adapted for use in connection with fraud", carrying a sentence of up to ten years in prison.

Last month, research from the Indiana School of Informatics found that phishing gangs maybe netting a 14 per cent response per phishing attack - a high than expected percentage of internet users who are likely to fall victim to scam artists.

Experts said these figures were inevitable.

"The person who believes in a phishing email is not going to be very analytic in their observation of the website," said Simon Heron, technical director of Network Box. "It seems that there are a certain percentage of people who are going to be difficult to reach by information and education. Only good security solutions will prevent them from being victimised."

Others thought that technology wasn't the only solution.

"While consumer awareness is a long-term project, not least because there's a continual stream of 'newbie' online consumers every day, it's very important, as important as messages about drink-driving, wearing seat-belts, etc," said David Emm, senior technology consultant at anti-virus firm Kaspersky Lab.

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