THE SENATE has approved on third and final reading a measure imposing stiffer penalties on those who hack bank systems.

With 20 affirmative votes and no negative ones, the chamber on Monday approved on final reading House Bill No. 6710, which amends Republic Act No. 8484 or the “Access Devices Regulation Act of 1998.” The bill was approved in the House of Representatives in February last year. The Senate’s adoption of the House bill eliminates the need for a bicameral conference committee to harmonize conflicting provisions and for ratification.

The measure declares “the commission of a crime using access devices is a form of economic sabotage and a heinous crime and shall be punishable to the maximum level allowed by law,” Section 1 of the bill read in part.

The measure among others will include in its coverage the skimming of automated teller machine (ATM) cards, hacking banking systems and counterfeiting of credit or debit card.

At present, the law imposes just P10,000 or twice the value obtained through the offense and six to 20 years of imprisonment for access device fraud.

If enacted, mere possession of at least 10 counterfeit access devices and/or unauthorized access devices which was used to access at least one account will warrant a fine of at least P500,000 and imprisonment of 12-20 years.

The bill defines a counterfeit access device as a card, plate, code or account number, among others, “that is counterfeit, fictitious, altered or forged, or an identifiable component of an access device or counterfeit access device or any fraudulent copy or reproduction.”

Those found in possession of such devices — even if they were not proven to have accessed any account — face six to 12 years imprisonment and P300,000 fine. Those using fraudulent credit cards face four to 10 years imprisonment and a fine equivalent to twice the value obtained. Those who used even just one counterfeit device or possessed device-making or altering equipment face 10-12 years jail time and P500,000 fine.

Those found guilty of hacking a bank’s system, skimming of at least 50 ATM cards or online banking accounts face life imprisonment and P1-5 million fine.

The bill also directs banks to submit real-time reports on access device fraud incidents to the National Bureau of Investigation and the Anti-Cybercrime Group of the Philippine National Police. — Charmaine A. Tadalan