The federal statute banning computer hacking is found in the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), 18 U.S.C. § 1030. The CFAA makes it a crime for anyone to access a protected computer without authorization and obtain anything of value. It prohibits a number of different Internet crimes. Most crimes under the CFAA involve accessing computers without authorization or in excess of authorization and then taking forbidden actions ranging from obtaining information to damaging a computer or computer data. Do not hesitate to contact Miami attorney Ken Swartz to schedule a consultation if you have been charged with computer hacking.
Exceeding authorized access
The issue that often arises in cases under this statute is whether one’s use of the computer “exceeds authorized access.” Often these cases involve computer use by an employee. In one case in the Fifth Circuit, U.S. v. John, the court found the employee exceeded her authorized access when she accessed confidential customer information in violation of her employer’s computer use restrictions and used that information to commit fraud. In another case in the Eleventh Circuit, in U.S. v. Rodriguez, the court found that an employee of the Social Security Administration exceeded his authorized access under section 1030 when he obtained personal information about former girlfriends and potential paramours and used that information to send flowers or to show up at women’s homes.
Computer hacking statute is not violated by an employee who simply uses their work computer for personal use, for example to access their personal email account or to check sports news. The statute does not criminalize the mere violation of an employer’s use restrictions. However the employee does violate this subsection if the employee:
- violates an employer’s restriction on computer access,
- with an intent to defraud, and
- by that action, furthers the intended fraud and obtains anything of value.
Simply using a work computer in a manner that violates the employer’s use restriction may get one fired, but it is not a federal crime under section 1030.
Computer Hacking can be prosecuted in state court because it is also prohibited in Florida by state law and can The statute that prohibits hacking is found in section 815.04(1) of the Florida Statutes. This statute makes is a crime for one to willfully and knowingly modify programs or supporting documentation in a computer, computer system or a computer network. This felony offense makes it a crime for someone to alter information that already exists in a computer system. A conviction requires evidence that the accused modified data which already existed in the computer system. In Garcia v. State, where the defendant was convicted under the computer hacking statute for unlawfully issuing Florida Identification cards, the appellate court reversed the conviction because Garcia caused new information to be entered for the fist time into the computer system when the identification card was issued. There was no evidence of modification.
Computer hacking has been often associated with the crime of identity theft. Under the federal identity theft statute, a defendant’s sentence can be enhanced to a mandatory 2 year sentence if a person knowingly takes the identity of another person without authority. The Supreme Court held in U.S. v. Flores-Figueroa that the government must prove the defendant knew the means of identification belonged to another person. Computer hacking is an example of how a person committing identity theft would know that took the identity of a real person.
Internet crimes such as Computer Hacking are serious offenses that require the highest quality legal representation. Ken Swartz is a Miami criminal defense lawyer with many years of experience in representing persons charged with white collar crimes such as these. As a Florida Bar Board Certified expert in criminal trial law, he has represented hundreds of persons charged in federal crimes.