TITLE=PHILIPPINES / CYBER LAW
INTRO: This week the so-called "Love Bug" computer
hacker - believed responsible for disabling millions
of the world's computers last May - walked free in the
Philippines. Government prosecutors said they couldn't
prosecute due to a lack of electronic commerce
legislation. The incident has raised questions about
the inadequacy of cyber laws in developing countries.
Grace Cutler has more from Hong Kong.
TEXT: There may have been no electronic commerce laws
on the books when Onel de Guzman released the "I Love
You" virus, but legislation was in the pipeline.
The E-commerce Act was introduced in the Philippines
Congress four years ago. But it was not until a month
after the message-reproducing virus was injected into
global computer networks in May, that lawmakers passed
Experts say the measure languished so long in part
because legislators did not understand what it meant.
Philippine lawyer Joseph Alehendro from Romulo Law
firm in Hong Kong is says the new legislation is
already outdated and not able to protect against many
of today's cyber crimes.
/// ALEHENDRO ACT ///
It's nothing great. As I understand it, it is just a
prototype of an e-commerce regulation. But it's not
up to date as the progress of technology.
/// END ACT ///
The virus is believed to have cost nearly 10 billion
dollars in damage when companies and governments
around the world were unable to function due to frozen
computer networks. The computer-reliant, more
developed countries were hardest hit.
And even though the Philippines had the suspect and
the evidence, the new law they needed to prosecute
could not be applied retroactively to crimes.
The Philippines is not alone when it comes to
inadequate legal armor. In 1997, the United Nations
adopted a universal e-commerce law to help developing
countries deal with computer viruses such as the "Love
Bug." The Philippines, as well as many other
countries, has yet to ratify the bill.
Despite the risks, many electronic commerce companies,
looking to set up shop, are attracted to the
Philippines' low rental costs and highly educated work
Political scientist Alex Magno from the University of
the Philippines in Manila, says although the country
is rich in talent, an idle pool of computer students
could create problems.
/// MAGNO ACT ///
We have a very, very large army of software
specialists. Not all of them will be immediately
employed. A lot of them will find entertainment in
/// END ACT ///
But Mr. Magno says the new e-commerce bill, while not
perfect, will dissuade hackers from committing crimes
at least in the short term. He says the global infamy
of the "Love Bug" is likely to prompt the government
to adopt a get tough attitude on high-tech offenders.
But he also points out that these and other cyber
crimes have also created a moral dilemma in the
Philippines. The alleged "I Love You" bandit Onel de
Guzman has already had several job offers, including
at least one at a Silicon Valley company in the United
States. Hackers may try to follow suit in order to get
high paying jobs.
Legal experts say unlike robbery or murder, computer
attack is not universally recognized as a crime.
Countries that do not have legislation could become a
haven for would-be cyber-criminals. (signed)
24-Aug-2000 04:07 AM LOC (24-Aug-2000 0807 UTC)
Source: Voice of America
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