CHICAGO (CBS) — In the wake of the massive theft of information from Target customers, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) has proposed tougher federal penalties for computer hackers who steal credit card numbers.

WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger reports Kirk’s proposal would create mandatory sentences for defendants convicted of hacking, and any hacker found guilty of stealing more than 1 million credit card numbers would go to prison for at least 25 years.

“Currently, legislation with regards to identity theft and credit card theft deals with the dollar amounts that are eventually stolen, because of the credit card hack. Trying to tie that back into the person performing the hack was always difficult,” said Saint Xavier University professor William Kresse, a computer fraud expert. “Now using the number of credit cards stolen, I think it will be a much more effective piece of legislation.”

Kresse said Kirk’s proposal would be a positive step toward reducing such cases of hacking, if approved by Congress.

“Computer criminals are economic beings. They weigh the costs and benefits. If the costs get to be too high, they will back away, and one way of making it too high is to make the punishments more severe,” he said.

Though many hackers operate from overseas, Kresse said federal laws often are written to apply to foreigners whose crimes reach into the U.S., if they can be caught and extradited.

Watch & Listen LIVE