A computer crime, also called a cybercrime, refers to the use of a computer as an instrument to commit illegal acts. This includes committing fraud, trafficking in child pornography and intellectual property, stealing identities, and violating privacy. When you think about acts that are illegal to commit on the Internet, a good rule of thumb to remember is that if the act is illegal in real life, it is also illegal on the Internet. That is why existing laws in these areas form a basis through which federal and state authorities can pursue those who commit crimes on the Internet.
The web has certainly not been around as long as the laws of our nation have been, so it can be a bit confusing to understand what is considered a computer crime. Derek A. Adame, Attorney at Law is here to clear up any confusion surrounding the legal definitions of crimes. It is important to be aware of these laws so that you do not find yourself in any legal trouble. If you do find yourself in legal trouble, Derek A. Adame will be here to provide the aggressive defense you need. There are four main types of computer crimes, and if you are accused of them, the help of a criminal defense lawyer will likely be in your future:
- Internal computer crimes
If you plant a virus or other foreign item in a computer, this would be an internal computer crime. For example, if an employee of a finance company planted malicious software in the company computer due to anger over not getting a bonus. An act like this could cost the company millions of dollars, and they would certainly want to file a suit against the individual responsible.
- Telecommunications crimes
A telecommunications crime is a general term used to refer to a person who commits an offense, particularly if the person had the intent to defraud or cause harm. The most common type of telecommunications crime is hacking. Illegal hacking refers to unauthorized computer access to gain data in a system without permission to access that data.
- Computer manipulation crimes
Computer manipulation crimes are crimes in which an individual manipulates computer files to cover up crimes they have committed, such as embezzlement. Embezzlement takes place when an individual uses funds for a different purpose than their original intention. They might create bills and receipts for activities that did not happen and then use that money for paid personal expenses. This is such a common type of computer crime because it does not require a high level of expertise.
- Traditional theft
When we talk about traditional theft, we are referring to the act of stealing computer hardware or software. An example of this would be software piracy, a crime in which criminals sell illegal copies of the software for their own profit. Software theft and piracy is a major concern in the software industry and is only growing to be more widespread as technology develops.
What Are the Three Main Offences of the Computer Misuse Act?
The Computer Misuse Act of 1990 was put into place to protect the personal data of organizations from unauthorized access and modification. It was drawn up after the failure to charge prominent hackers and was designed to prevent hackers from intentionally spreading malicious software. It has been updated several times to reflect changes in technology and cybersecurity. Today, failure to comply with the Computer Misuse Act can lead to fines and potential imprisonment. There are three main offences of the computer misuse act, which are as follows:
- Unauthorized access to computer material
This offence occurs when the defendant causes a computer to perform a function with the intent to secure access. It excludes physical contact with a computer and the scrutiny of data without any interaction with the computer. In order to be considered this type of offence, the access to the program or data with the accused must be unauthorized access.
- Unauthorized access with the intent to commit or facilitate the commission of further offences
The next offence of the Computer Misuse Act is committing the unauthorized access offence above, but with an additional caveat. With this offence, the offender would have had the intent to commit or facilitate the commission of a more serious offence. Examples of this include obtaining unauthorized access with the intention of committing theft, such as by diverting funds that are in the course of an electronic funds transfer to the defendant’s bank account or to a place where the defendant would gain unauthorized access to sensitive information held on a computer with a plan to blackmail the individual to whom that information was related.
- Unauthorized acts with the intent to impair or with recklessness as to impairing the operation of a computer
If you are in violation of this part of the offence, it means that there has been computer misuse in which the impact is to cause damage. For example, the misuse could cause damage to critical national infrastructure in a case so drastic that the court would determine ten years to be insufficient punishment. Critical national infrastructure could refer to an asset or system that is essential for the maintenance of vital societal functions, health, safety, security, economic or social well-being of individuals. This can include power plants, transport networks, or government networks, as well as the disruption or destruction that would have made a significant impact in a Member State due to the failure to maintain those functions.
What to Do if You Are Accused of a Computer Crime
The Internet tends to give users a sense of anonymity. Because of this, you might think it is unlikely to be accused of a computer crime, but the truth is that State and Federal crime investigators are actively seeking out and prosecuting individuals throughout Texas for a wide range of computer-related crimes. However, because the Internet is so complicated, it is possible for the wrong people to be targeted in an investigation when they are innocent. It is not uncommon for scammers to use the computers or identities of innocent people for illegal activities. Another common scenario is for disgruntled exes or former employees to frame innocent individuals for computer crimes. If you are being accused of a computer crime, you will want the help of an experienced defense attorney on your side. We will carefully consider all the facts of your case so we can present it in the most favorable light and get you the best results possible.
To learn more about how we can provide defense for computer crimes and other crimes, call Derek A. Adame, Attorney at Law at (940) 441-4239 or contact us online.