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Reality Check: Information security and Brazil’s digital crime bill

Editor’s NoteWelcome to our weekly Reality Check column. We’ve gathered a group of visionaries and veterans in the mobile industry to give their insights into the marketplace.

We all know and care about physical security. Whether we are walking on the street, shopping, paying bills at the bank or performing any other daily activities, we want to feel secure. We always want our physical integrity to be protected, and for this reason the penal code has always sought to protect us.

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Information security is now a new point of concern. Most of us live our daily lives in front of a computer. Everyday, we work, shop, go to the bank, send e-mails, visit social media websites and so on. While we are caught up in these tasks, there are other people who work to get all the information we produce during these common daily activitiesscary, to say the least. So much information is on the Internet that we can’t even measure it all. Even the browsers we use to access the Internet are being attacked, spreading viruses in updates that we believed were harmless. Just think about how much information is necessary to register on a site, or the content of the information you post on social media sites. Even surfing from one site to another can have risks, and all this information can be very useful to people with malicious intentions.

Legislators everywhere are feeling the need to develop new laws to make these kinds of malicious acts criminal and punish the perpetrators. In Brazil, a new bill was approved this week that addresses this type of security. Bill 12.737/12 defines electronic crimes and malicious intentions in regard to any kind of electronic device, whether it is connected to the Internet or not. This bill has been in debate in Brazil ever since a famous Brazilian actress had pictures stolen from her computer after taking her device in for repair. With this new bill, companies now have another tool to help them feel more secure with the devices they hand to their employees. Not only that, but the bill also covers the integrity of the information swapped among devices. The law was developed to make sure that efforts to jeopardize our physical integrity in the virtual world will be suppressed.

With Internet use, the issue of security is clearly not very different than in our physical lives. Everyday, we are more aware of the dangerous minds that use digital waves, and to suppress their activities new laws have to be written. In Brazil, the new bill points out what is considered a crime, such as the invasion of computers, forgery of private documents, and forgery of electronics cards (debit or credit) as well as the intended use of the information acquired. Let’s suppose that on my computer I have information that is crucial to my work and someone steals that information; that will now be considered a crime because the information was pulled out of my computer without my authorization. Under the new bill, the person who stole the information could be sentenced from six months to two years in prison.

The need to specify these actions as crimes is clear; according to Brazilian law there is no crime if it has not been established as such previously in law, so until this law was approved none of these actions were considered crimes. Therefore, passing this bill was a start toward achieving online security. Now at least the judiciary can convict the perpetrators of such crimes.

Márcio Cots is a lawyer, university professor and participant in the Ilaw Program (Cyberlaw) at Harvard Law School. He is also partner of COTS Advogados, specializing in Digital Law.

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