The Metropolitan Police has taken to Twitter to warn would-be hacktivists exactly which laws they will break if they engage in any illegal hacking activity.
In an unusual move, the force, which is home to the Police Central e-Crime Unit, posted a link to a Tweetdeck statement revealing that investigations into Anonymous and LulzSec are ongoing, and that it wants to "remind people of the law in this area".
"Anyone considering accessing a computer without authority should understand that such acts are unlawful and can carry a term of imprisonment," the Met said.
"Under UK legislation, it is an offence if a person acts from within the UK upon a computer anywhere else in the world. It is also an offence [for] someone anywhere else in the world to criminally affect a computer."
The statement goes on to clarify that anyone gaining unauthorised access to or modifying computer material could face two years in jail under the Computer Misuse Act, while those who try to impair the operation of another computer, prevent or hinder access to a program or its operation may face up to 10 years.
"These offences cover the acts of unauthorised access to personal accounts, distributed denial-of-service attacks and intrusive hacks where data is taken or systems changed. Other jurisdictions have similar laws," said the Met.
Sophos senior technology consultant Graham Cluley welcomed the Met's move, which is likely to be an attempt to counter the argument by many hacktivists that what they do is merely a form of lawful protest.
"In my opinion, it's a timely warning by the Met Police, as it comes after a series of arrests of individuals suspected of being involved in Anonymous and LulzSec hacktivist activity, most recently the charging of an 18 year-old man from Shetland alleged to be LulzSec's spokesman 'Topiary'," he wrote in a blog post.
"After other Anonymous-related arrests, we have seen internet attacks against Dutch and Italian police. Presumably the UK police are keen that Topiary-supporting hacktivists don't use the internet in a revenge attack."
However, Anonymous remained defiant in a tweeted response. "We don't recognise that law. What we do is legitimate peaceful protest, and that isn't a crime despite what the corrupt lawmakers say," the group said.
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