Computer Hacking Laws

In general, computer crime is a term that covers a variety of crimes involving internet or computer use that may be prosecuted under state or federal laws. Because of the rise in computer crimes, California state laws include provisions that prohibit these violations. In addition, other states have passed computer crime statutes in order to address this problem.

What is a computer crime?

An individual who accesses a computer, computer system or computer network and alters, destroys, or disrupts any of its parts is considered a perpetrator of computer crime. The charge is selected based upon the intention of unlawful access. Hacking is the breaking into a computer, computer system, or computer network with the purpose of modifying the existing settings under malicious intentions. Unlawful or unauthorized access means that there is trespassing, storing, retrieving, changing, or intercepting computer resources without consent. Viruses, or other contaminants, include, computer code that modify, damage, or destruct electronic information without the owner’s permission. This often disrupts the operations of a computer, computer system, or network. As such, Congress enacted the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act in order to regulate computer fraud and to expand laws against it. This federal statute provides that “whoever knowingly and with intent to defraud, accesses a protected computer without authorization, or exceeds authorized access, and by means of such conduct furthers the intended fraud and obtains anything of value, unless the object of the fraud and the thing obtained consists only of the use of the computer and the value of such use is not more than $5,000 in any 1-year period” shall be punished accordingly.

Who handles internet crimes?

The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) was formed as an intermediary between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C), and Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA).  In practical terms, IC3 intends to act as a unit that receives, develops, and refers criminal computer crime complaints to appropriate local, state, federal, or international law enforcement agencies. Once the complaint reaches the hands of the law enforcement agency, appropriate administrative, criminal, or civil action can be taken to resolve the complications. Further, the California Comprehensive Computer Data Access and Fraud Act was created to make cybercrime punishable in California. One of its main components is the ban on hacking.

What are the charges for computer crime?

California Penal Code § 502, expands the protection of individuals, businesses, and governmental agencies from tampering, interference, damages, and unauthorized access to lawfully created computer data and computer systems. As discussed above, hacking is classified as knowingly accessing and taking data from another computer, computer system, or computer network. Therefore, hacking may be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or a felony. In California, a computer crime is considered a misdemeanor for the first violation if it does not result in injury and the value of the used services does not exceed $950. A misdemeanor is punishable by a fine up to $5,000 and up to one year in county jail. If the value of the computer service used exceeds $950, the crime is charged as a felony with a fine up to $10,000 and up to 3 years in county jail.

The statute defines “victim expenditure” as any expenditure reasonably and necessarily incurred by the owner or lessee to verify that a computer system, computer network, computer program, or data was or was not altered, deleted, damaged, or destroyed by the access.

At our law firm, we help our clients regarding computer hacking laws and relevant violations. You may contact us in order to setup an initial consultation.