Damage to telecommunication networks poses threat to information security

In the regions of the country, vandalizing of telecommunication networks is becoming more and more recurrent. Usually such news goes unnoticed.

This is an especially great threat for the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, where pro-Russian propaganda is being intensively pursued, and separatist groups are carrying out such sabotage.

This harms Ukrainian national security.

The integrity of telecommunication networks is a prerequisite for not only the communication system, but also for the ability to remotely manage complex and dangerous technological and production processes that relate to automated financial systems and warning systems for man-made and fire hazards.

The “cloud computing” system, where important state information is stored, is managed through telecommunication networks. As a result of their damage, the work of enterprises and institutions, power and government structures can be paralyzed.

In 2016, losses of telecommunication service providers exceeded 400 million hryvnias. Each year, this trend is increasing. According to the Ukrainian Association of operators TELAS, in 2016 more than 5,000 such crimes were recorded. As a rule, they are performed by the same groups of persons.

According to the Telecommunications Chamber of Ukraine, the damage statistics has increased in comparison with 2015. “Volia” company has recorded 1,146 cases of network damage, “Datagroup” company has suffered losses of 300 thousand hryvnias monthly, “Frinet” company has lost almost 400 thousand hryvnias already in early 2017.

The state being a regulator should tighten the punishment for network damage. Articles 360 of the Criminal Code and 147 of the Code of Administrative Offenses need urgent updating.

For intentional damage to the networks, a fine of 100 to 200 non-taxable minimum incomes is provided now. In the absence of money, a person may be sentenced to a year of correctional labor or up to two years of restriction of freedom.

The parliament is considering a bill to increase the fine to 500 non-taxable minimum incomes, increase the period of correctional labor up to two years and the term imprisonment to three years.

The sanctions for groups of persons who commit such crimes intentionally or repeatedly should be even greater: a fine of 500 to 1,000 non-taxable minimum incomes or imprisonment for a term of three to five years.

If the damage of the networks leads to the death of people or other serious consequences – which is quite possible in terms of Ukraine being occupied by Russia and various kinds of sabotage being carried out – such actions should be equated with murder. The persons who committed them must be punished with imprisonment for a term of eight to twelve years.

The concept of “technical means and facilities of telecommunication networks” should be introduced into the Code of Administrative Offenses.

For violation of the rules of protection or damage to these networks, a person must be punished with a fine in the amount of 10 to 30 non-taxable minimum incomes. For the commission of such an offense by an official, the fine should be from 100 to 300 non-taxable minimum incomes.

Such norms will give the law enforcement authorities the power to punish the perpetrators, and not just to detain them. Without updating those articles of the two codes, the legal field of the law enforcement and the judiciary is narrowing critically, leaving criminals unpunished.

The problem of plunder of telecommunication networks exists not only in Ukraine. In the UK, there is a law on scrap dealers, according to which scrap receivers should require documents for the material and record each receipt. It is recommended to make payments in any way, except for cash.

In Germany, scrap dealers survey their suppliers. If they find a person to be suspicious, they call the police.

In Ukraine, the bill on strengthening liability for network damage will be one of the levers of an integrated approach to solving this problem.

Roman Semenuha
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