Computer Crime Law

What is Computer Crime Law?

Computer crime law deals with the broad range of criminal offenses committed using a computer or similar electronic device. Nearly all of these crimes are perpetrated online. The internet provides a degree of anonymity to offenders, as well as potential access to personal, business, and government data. Many computer crimes are committed as a means of stealing money or valuable information, although financial gain is not always the objective. In fact, some of the most notorious incidents of computer crime involved hackers seeking “bragging rights” by overcoming government or corporate cyber security measures.

Laws concerning computer crimes have been enacted at the state and federal levels. In 1986, Congress passed the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). This law has been amended and expanded as internet technology has advanced, and it continues to form the basis for federal prosecutions of computer-related criminal activities. Other relevant federal statutes include the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), the Identity Theft Enforcement and Restitution Act of 2008 (ITERA), and certain provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act.

Hacking, Piracy, and Cyber Terrorism

Hacking is one of the most well-known types of computer crime. In this context, the term refers to the unauthorized access of another’s computer system. These intrusions are often conducted in order to launch malicious programs known as viruses, worms, and Trojan Horses that can shut down or destroy an entire computer network. Hacking is also carried out as a way to take credit card numbers, internet passwords, and other personal information. By accessing commercial databases, hackers are able to steal these types of items from millions of internet users all at once.

Internet piracy is another common offense. Piracy involves the dissemination of copyrighted material without permission of the owner. Beginning in the early 1990s, music sharing websites became extremely popular, many of them operating in violation of the law. Movies, video games, e-books, and software are now pirated over the internet as well. Estimates by the entertainment industry put the annual cost of internet piracy in the billions of dollars, although there is evidence the scope of the economic impact has been overstated by the industry in an effort to persuade Congress to pass further regulations.

Cyber terrorism is a relatively new phenomenon. These crimes involve politically-motivated attacks to targets such as government websites or commercial networks. Such attacks are designed to be large in scale, and to produce fear and panic among the victim population. With financial markets now trading over the internet and so many other transactions taking place online, the danger of cyber terrorism has received a great deal of attention. However, actual instances of this type of crime are rare.

Identity Theft and Other Frauds

The problem of identity theft existed prior to the development of the internet. Nevertheless, these crimes often involve the use of a computer, as offenders trick online shoppers and other web users into disclosing social security numbers, bank account and credit card information, home addresses, and more. A common scheme is known as “email phishing.” It is accomplished by sending victims an email containing a link to a website that the victims use regularly. The email asks victims to update their account information on the website, but when victims click on the link within the email, they are taken to a copycat website that secretly captures the information they enter.

Online Stalking, Bullying, and Sex Crimes

Some of the most serious computer crimes have nothing to do with making money, achieving political objectives, or showing off a hacker’s skills. Instead, they are designed to cause emotional trauma to the victim. Social media websites provide offenders with the ability to publish hurtful or embarrassing material as a way of inflicting harm on others. Once photographs or other items are posted and circulated online, they can be impossible for the victim to remove. The fallout from these kinds of activities is especially devastating for school age children, who tend to be more sensitive to social harassment.

A number of sexual offenses are also committed using computers. The trafficking of child pornography is one example. Federal and state authorities prosecute these cases vigorously, with convicted offenders often being sentenced to decades of incarceration. Law enforcement also devotes substantial resources to catching online predators who attempt to solicit underage victims for purposes of sex. These criminals are often discovered frequenting internet chat rooms, where they pose as young people in order to lure minor victims into romantic encounters.

Reasons to Hire a Computer Crimes Lawyer

If you have been accused of a computer crime, you need a defense attorney with technical as well as legal expertise. Attorneys practicing in this area will also have access to experts who can review digital evidence and testify at trial if necessary. To learn more, contact a computer crimes lawyer now.


Know Your Rights!

  • Combating Computer Crime

    Computer crime is one of the fastest-growing types of illegal activity, both in the U.S. and abroad. Indeed, much of the computer crime Americans face is from foreign sources, making regulation of these activities by police authorities exceedingly difficult. While the Internet links people together like never before, it also provides endless opportunity to criminals seeking to exploit the vulnerabilities and trusting nature of others.

  • Do Real World Laws Apply to Virtual World Problems?

    Everyday, millions of people login from all over the world to experience various virtual worlds. Some are part of a video game, others are intended to allow for social interactions, and still others include elements for commercial dealings. Whatever the purpose, any environment in which people interact can lead to friction and disagreements of various sorts. This has led many to ask whether the laws of the real world can or should apply to virtual world problems.

  • Is It Legal For Someone to Share Your Revealing Photos or Videos for Revenge on the Internet

    In this modern digital age, it is often common for romantic partners, particularly those in long distance relationships, to exchange revealing photos of one another. These photos are often intended for the eyes of the receiver only. But, how can you be sure? What happens if you break up or the other person turns out to be less discrete than you had hoped? Is it illegal for someone to share those photos with others?

  • Is it Legal to Download Torrents

    Most people understand that piracy of copyrighted works is illegal. But, many do not understand what piracy is or whether their role in the act of downloading pirated materials is a crime. Immense amount of data are downloaded everyday using file sharing programs called “torrent clients.” That means that millions of Americans are using torrents to share files, often containing pirated materials, which may leave you wondering, “Is it legal to download torrents?”

Articles About Computer Crime Law

  • White Collar Crimes
    White collar crimes are becoming increasingly common due to the technology that exists and makes it easier for individuals to get a hold of other people’s personal identifying information. Given the expanse of white collar crimes, it is likely that you know someone who has been affected by a white collar crime. These crimes range from identity theft to fraud.
  • What is an Internet Crime?
    Not everyone is aware of what constitutes criminal conduct when it comes to the internet.
  • Internet Crimes
    Over 15 million Americans are victims of Identity Theft each year. Another 100 million more are at risk.
  • Why Computer Fraud and Abuse Act Crimes are Difficult to Prosecute
    Federal prosecutors face an uphill battle in prosecuting individuals under the Computer Crimes and Fraud Act (CFAA)
  • CFAA: Computer Fraud and Abuse Act
    Computers, smartphones, and the internet are household staples in California and across the United States of America. Digital technology continues to rise in popularity as our society obsesses with the “need to know everything right now”. It comes as no surprise that the rise in popularity correlates with an increase in computer crime across the world.
  • What Legally Makes It Child Pornography?
    Child pornography is a crime that deals with some of the harshest and most serious laws that a person can face. Regardless of the specifics of the event or material involved, the first offense is met with heavy punishment, and subsequent offenses result in even harsher criminal sentences.
  • What Is Indecent Liberties with a Child in Virginia?
    In Virginia, the charge of taking indecent liberties with a child primarily targets certain acts of a sexual nature when they are performed by an adult with a child under the age of 15 years old, though it also can concern adults participating in certain ways in the creation of pornography for anyone under 18. Most of the crimes are considered class 5 felonies, though the charges can be harsher under certain circumstances.
  • Cyber-Bullying Crimes in New Jersey
    The act of bullying has been around for as long as anyone cares to remember.
  • Committing Offenses on the Internet – Internet Crime
    When a crime is allegedly committed using the internet the first question is always, “Where should this case be handled?” Should it be in the state where the offender committed the offense? Should it be where the victim lives? Should it be somewhere else like in federal court?
  • Someone Hacked My Phone or Computer, What Can I Do?
    There are few things that feel more violating than finding that someone has hacked into your phone or computer. When this happens, the first reaction may be to call the authorities and report the breach. But, many are surprised to find that police are not always terribly interested to hear about the event. So, what can you do if someone hacks your computer or phone?
  • All Criminal Law Articles

Computer Crime Law - US

  • Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA)

    In response to concerns that emerging technologies such as digital and wireless communications were making it increasingly difficult for law enforcement agencies to execute authorized surveillance, Congress enacted CALEA on October 25, 1994. CALEA was intended to preserve the ability of law enforcement agencies to conduct electronic surveillance by requiring that telecommunications carriers and manufacturers of telecommunications equipment modify and design their equipment, facilities, and services to ensure that they have the necessary surveillance capabilities.

  • Computer Software Privacy and Control Act

    To prevent deceptive software transmission practices in order to safeguard computer privacy, maintain computer control, and protect Internet commerce.

  • Department of Justice - Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section

    The Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS) is responsible for implementing the Department's national strategies in combating computer and intellectual property crimes worldwide. The Computer Crime Initiative is a comprehensive program designed to combat electronic penetrations, data thefts, and cyberattacks on critical information systems. CCIPS prevents, investigates, and prosecutes computer crimes by working with other government agencies, the private sector, academic institutions, and foreign counterparts.

  • Digital Millennium Copyright Act

    The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was enacted in 1998. The basic purpose of the DMCA is to amend Title 17 of the United States Code and to implement the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Copyright Treaty and Performances and Phonograms Treaty, which were designed to update world copyright laws to deal with the new technology.

  • Economic Espionage Act (EEA)

    In addition to laws specifically tailored to deal with computer crimes, traditional laws can also be used to prosecute crimes involving computers. For example the Economic Espionage Act (EEA) was passed in 1996 and was created in order to put a stop to trade secret misappropriation.

  • Electronic Communications Privacy Act

    Passed in 1986, Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) was an amendment to the federal wiretap law, the Act made it illegal to intercept stored or transmitted electronic communication without authorization.

  • FBI - Cyber Crime Division

    The FBI's cyber mission is four-fold: first and foremost, to stop those behind the most serious computer intrusions and the spread of malicious code; second, to identify and thwart online sexual predators who use the Internet to meet and exploit children and to produce, possess, or share child pornography; third, to counteract operations that target U.S. intellectual property, endangering our national security and competitiveness; and fourth, to dismantle national and transnational organized criminal enterprises engaging in Internet fraud. Pursuant to the National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace signed by the President, the Department of Justice and the FBI lead the national effort to investigate and prosecute cybercrime.

  • Fraud and Related Activity in Connection with Computers

    Section 1030(a)(1) makes it illegal to access a computer without authorization or in excess of one’s authorization and obtain information about national defense, foreign relations, or restricted data as defined in the Atomic Energy Act of 19549, which covers all data concerning design, manufacture or utilization of atomic weapons and production of nuclear material. It is worth noting that section 1030(a)(1) requires proof that the individual knowingly accessed the computer without authority or in excess of authorization for the purpose of obtaining classified or protected information. Section 1030(a)(1) criminalizes the use of a computer to gain access to the information, not the unauthorized possession of it or its transmission.

  • Fraudulent Online Identity Sanctions Act

    FOISA attempts to tackle the problem of criminals registering online domains under false identification, it includes a provision that would increase jail times for people who provide false contact information to a domain name registrar and then use that domain to commit copyright and trademark infringement crimes.

  • Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2008

    To establish broadband policy and direct the Federal Communications Commission to conduct a proceeding and public broadband summits to assess competition, consumer protection, and consumer choice issues relating to broadband Internet access services, and for other purposes.

  • National Information Infrastructure Protection Act of 1996

    The National Information Infrastructure Act (NIIA) was passed in 1996 to expand the CFAA to encompass unauthorized access to a protected computer in excess of the parties’ authorization.

  • The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

    The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, first enacted in 1984 and revised in 1994, makes it certain activities designed to access a "federal interest computer" illegal. These activities may range from knowingly accessing a computer without authorization or exceeding authorized access to the transmission of a harmful component of a program, information, code, or command. A federal interest computer includes a computer used by a financial institution, used by the United States Government, or one of two or more computers used in committing the offense, not all of which are located in the same State. The Legal Institute provides Title 18 of the U.S. Code, which encompasses the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

Computer Related Crimes Law

  • CAN-SPAM Act

    Despite its name, the CAN-SPAM Act doesn’t apply just to bulk email. It covers all commercial messages, which the law defines as “any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service,” including email that promotes content on commercial websites. The law makes no exception for business-to-business email. That means all email – for example, a message to former customers announcing a new product line – must comply with the law.

  • Computer Crime Research Center - Computer Piracy

    Computer piracy is reproduction, distribution and use of software without permission of the owner of copyright. Kinds of illegal software use that can be qualified as copyright violation: - selling of computer facilities with illegally installed software; - replication and distribution of software copies on information carriers without permission of the copyright owner; - illegal distribution of software through communication networks (Internet, e-mail, etc.); - illegal use of software by the user.

  • Computer Hacking Laws

    The news said that another person had their identity stolen. It happened again. You might even know of someone that had it happen to them. We often hear of percentages - and they are surprisingly high. Enforcement is taking place, but we have to wonder if computer hacking laws are really having any effect against cyber hacking. This article will show what is being done against cyber crime.

  • CyberStalking and CyberHarassment Laws

    States have enacted "cyberstalking" or "cyberharassment" laws or have laws that explicitly include electronic forms of communication within more traditional stalking or harassment laws.

  • Denial-of-Service Attacks

    In a denial-of-service (DoS) attack, an attacker attempts to prevent legitimate users from accessing information or services. By targeting your computer and its network connection, or the computers and network of the sites you are trying to use, an attacker may be able to prevent you from accessing email, web sites, online accounts (banking, etc.), or other services that rely on the affected computer. The most common and obvious type of DoS attack occurs when an attacker "floods" a network with information. When you type a URL for a particular web site into your browser, you are sending a request to that site's computer server to view the page. The server can only process a certain number of requests at once, so if an attacker overloads the server with requests, it can't process your request. This is a "denial of service" because you can't access that site.

  • Internet Investment Scams - SEC

    The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which receives about 300 complaints a day concerning online scams, devotes one-fourth of its enforcement staff to computer-related offenses.

  • Internet Scam and Hoaxes

    Email hoaxes spread misinformation, waste bandwidth, and lessen the effectiveness of email as a communication medium. Hoax-Slayer helps stop the continued circulation of these hoaxes by publishing information about them. Hoax-Slayer allows Internet users to check the veracity of a large number of common email hoaxes. Information about new hoaxes is added on a regular basis.

  • National Consumers League - Online and Internet Fraud

    Our mission is to give consumers the information they need to avoid becoming victims of telemarketing and Internet fraud and to help them get their complaints to law enforcement agencies quickly and easily.

  • Online Safety - Phishing

    Phishing e-mail messages are designed to steal your identity. They ask for personal data, or direct you to Web sites or phone numbers to call where they ask you to provide personal data.

Computer Crime Law - International

Organizations Related to Computer Crime Law

Publications Related to Computer Crime Law

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