Dutch police may get right to hack in cyber crime fight

The Dutch government has announced plans to give police far greater powers to fight cybercrime.

Under a new bill, investigators would be able to hack into computers, install spyware, read emails and destroy files.

They could also break into servers located abroad, if they were being used to block services.

Critics say the proposed measures are unnecessary and could set a dangerous precedent for people living under oppressive governments.

Use of the powers would be subject to the approval of a judge, the government stresses.

The bill would also make it a crime for a suspect to refuse to decipher encrypted files during a police investigation.

It is expected the draft legislation will be put to parliament by the end of the year.

The bill singles out child pornography and terrorism as two areas of special concern. The publication of stolen data would also become punishable.

Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten is also keen to put an end to so-called DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) web-attacks, that flood intended targets such as banks with large amounts of traffic, making them unreachable. .

Simone Halink of digital rights group Bits of Freedom said the law would set a bad precedent and had been "rushed".

"What you see is that the police have especially a shortage of knowledge and manpower - not of powers," she said.

A Dutch citizen was arrested last month on suspicion of mounting one of the biggest ever web attacks. Websites of anti-junk mail outfit Spamhaus were bombarded with huge amounts of data in an attempt to knock them offline.

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