HACKERS could face up to 10 years behind bars as Bahrain plans to introduce a new cybercrime law.
The information technology bill will also carry fines of up to BD300,000, which has already been approved by parliament and was discussed by the Shura Council yesterday.
It is the first law of its type to be introduced in the Arab world and will be implemented as soon as the Shura Council approves it.
The council has dedicated next Monday's session to discuss the penalties, which include a year's imprisonment or BD30,000 fine for those who gain unauthorised access to computer systems.
People who deliberately hack into networks with the purpose of destroying them or damaging information will also face up to three years in prison or a fine of BD50,000, or both.
However, the imprisonment will increase to seven years and BD300,000 fine, or both if the offence is serious.
The same sentence will apply if the offender intentionally threatens public safety, tampers with medical reports or leads to people's deaths.
Shura Council foreign affairs, defence and national security committee chairman Dr Shaikh Khalid bin Khalifa Al Khalifa said cybercrimes were on the rise, not just in Bahrain, but across the world.
"There are large number of crimes, mainly financial, using the Internet, and according to information provided by the Central Bank of Bahrain there are 17,000 financial crimes per second worldwide that are being done using computer systems and programmes," he said.
"That number is scary and is an issue of worry for our financial institutions and government bodies.
"The law has been delayed for more than two years since we received it from parliament because we wanted something strong that matches developments in criminology and even when the law gets approved it will require continuous updates through amendments."
Central Informatics Organisation representative Ahmed Jaber Al Dossary told the council Bahrain adopted most of the bill's principles from the European Convention on Cyber Crime.
"Information, communications and media are considered one subject, but in Bahrain we put them in different laws - one has been issued on communications, now this will cover information and the government has just referred the media law," he explained.
"The information technology law will cover everything related to technology used for information whether it is a watch, mobile or even home appliances."
The bill also punishes people who emit terror related information on the Internet that threatens national security, or damages people's reputation.
They will be sentenced up to three years in jail or fined up to BD100,000, or both.
Those who destroy, delete, change or tamper with data in any computer network will be sentenced up to 10 years in jail.
Embezzlement, theft and blackmail through cyber communication will be punished with up to three years behind bars.
Those who produce pornography or broadcast it using technology and telecommunications will be sentenced up to a year in jail or fined up to BD10,000, or both depending on the pornographic material associated with the case. However, if the case is related to child pornography then the offender will face two years in jail or BD10,000, or both. The bill will also give the Public Prosecution the power to stop the broadcast of any information on the Internet, hide the information or enter computerised accounts if necessary for an investigation.