As day-to-day life grows more and more digital with the increased availability of advanced technology for work and personal use, people are also growing warier about their personal information being accessible online. Even the slightest abnormality in online behavior might prompt them to report a cyber attack. As a result, if you have been unfairly accused of committing a cyber crime, you should know how to defend against such a charge. In today’s blog, we review what constitutes cyber criminal activity and potential defense tactics against a wrongful charge.
What Constitutes a Cyber Crime?
Cyber crimes are criminal offenses committed on the Internet or otherwise aided by forms of computer technology, such as the use of online social networks or smart phones. Cyber crimes charges often involve an individual’s unauthorized access to confidential or private information that is stored online, on computers, or on internet databases.
In Massachusetts, various types of criminal activities fall under the umbrella of "computer crimes,” such as hacking into a secure network or damaging a computer system. Massachusetts computer crime laws require the act to be intentional and an attempt alone is considered a crime.
Federal law considers the following behavior as criminal activity:
- knowingly accessing and obtaining confidential national data;
- corrupting, modifying, damaging, or disclosing programs or data;
- intentionally accessing a computer to gather financial information;
- intentionally accessing a computer owned by a government department or agency;
- accessing a computer with the intent to defraud;
- accessing a computer with the intent to commit extortion;
- introducing a virus or other malware into a computer system or network;
- interfering with another person’s computer access or use;
- using encryption to aid a crime.
Common Types of Cyber Crimes
If you have been wrongfully charged with a cyber crime, it may be worthwhile to be aware of common types of cyber criminal activity that the accuser might have suggested you committed. With the modernizing age of technology, people have more and more access to digital systems and, consequently, more and more risk of violating cyber security norms, even if you did not intend to.
Phishing attacks occur when cyber criminals use email or malicious websites to obtain personal information from an individual or company by posing as a trustworthy organization. Phishing attempts are often in the form of an email, but they can also arrive through text message or voicemail.
Malware, or malicious software, is one of the most popular types of cyber crime. Malware could include anything from Trojan viruses to worms to spyware, and introducing malware into someone’s network or computer is a key component in phishing attacks, credential breaches, and more.
Online credential breaches occur when cyber criminals access employees’ or customers’ personal online credentials, such as their user names and passwords for various online accounts, without authorization and often with the intent to commit fraudulent behavior.
Credit and debit card fraud has grown increasingly common with the rise of online shopping. This is committed using a bank card online to purchase goods or obtain unauthorized funds from an account.
Similarly, identity theft is also on the rise due to the increasing use of computer networks and electronic data sharing. Identity theft is a common crime that occurs when someone intends to access consumers’ personally identifiable information online.
Cyberbullying is aggressive harassment using electronic technology, such as cell phones, tablets, and social media sites. Cyberbullying includes sending unwanted, abusive messages, photographs, personal information, defamatory and libelous rumors, and/or creating fake profiles to harm victims. If this behavior is ruled a hate crime, you could incur even harsher penalties, including additional jail time and also potentially the interest of the FBI.
With the growing availability of online technology at their fingertips, users have also grown increasingly sensitive to potential cyber crimes and are quick to report unfamiliar online activity. As a result, it is important to consider your online behavior that might be suggestive of cyber criminal activity.
Defending Against Cyber Crime Charges
The penalties for computer crimes in Massachusetts could go up to 2.5 years in prison and a $3,000 fine. If you believe you did not commit a cyber crime, you should not have to face such steep penalties. Potential defenses you can argue against a cyber crime charge could be claiming:
- Authorization – You were authorized to access the information in question.
- Lack of knowledge – You did not know or intend to commit the unlawful breach.
- Coercion – You were forced to commit the cyber crime under threat of harm or punishment to yourself or a loved one.
Note that many computer databases and internet devices have tracking mechanisms that record cyber activity and might help prove your innocence in a cyber crime case. The devices might track time stamps of when a person logged into an account, or they can tell from which location certain transactions occurred and who authorized them. As a result, it may be useful to reach out to a cyber crimes attorney who can help you obtain this type of information when facing cyber crime charges.
Seek an Experienced Attorney Today
If you are being investigated for committing an alleged cyber crime, you should consult an experienced attorney immediately. In Massachusetts, a cyber crime conviction could lead to jail time and significant fines. Martin G. Weinberg, Attorney at Law has experience with a variety of computer crime cases and can provide you the knowledgeable and aggressive representation you need against your cyber crimes accusation.
Contact Martin G. Weinberg, Attorney at Law today to schedule a consultation.