A person can get into deep legal jeopardy without leaving their home or office if they know what kind of damage they can do via computer. Of course, you don’t always have to be aware of or intend to cause harm to find yourself facing criminal charges.
The cybercrime most people are familiar with is “hacking.” However, you’re going to have a hard time finding that word anywhere in the law.
Some examples of illegal computer activity
What you will find is references to “knowingly and without permission” doing things like:
- Using, altering, damaging (for example, by introducing a virus) or deleting data from a computer, a computer system or network
- Copying data from a user or network
- Preventing authorized users from getting to data or a network
- Disrupting a computer network
To be charged with a computer crime like these and others, prosecutors must show that a person did these things “to either (A) devise or execute any scheme or artifice to defraud, deceive, or extort, or (B) wrongfully control or obtain money, property, or data.”
Even actions like copying or taking business records without required permission and/or disseminating them can get a person charged with a computer crime in addition, possibly, to other white-collar offenses.
The importance of acting “knowingly” and “without permission”
As noted above, for one of these actions to be considered illegal, a person must have known what they were doing. If you accidentally delete a sensitive file or email it to yourself or someone else, that’s not a crime. Prosecutors would have to prove that you intentionally did it for one of the purposes described above.
Further, if you did something at your boss’s or someone else’s direction, then you could argue that you didn’t do it “without permission.” People use others all the time to do their “dirty work” for them to try to escape culpability.
If you’ve been charged with a computer crime, it’s wise to fully understand the law and know how your alleged actions are addressed in it. Getting experienced legal guidance is an important first step to protecting your rights and presenting a strong defense.