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 such crimes. 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.

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.

At our law firm, we help inform clients regarding the laws and regulations that apply to cybercrime. You may contact us in order to setup an initial consultation.