Computer Crimes

Federal Cyber Crime: Computer Fraud, Title 18, United States Code, Section 1030

The only constant in technology is that it is constantly changing. In our wildest imaginations 20 years ago, who would have thought it possible to Skype, use Twitter, Facetime, or use the internet on your phone to buy movie tickets? These advances have done wonders for our society. However, there are downsides to technologic advances. For example, as we have seen in recent years, the government can all too often play “big brother” or individuals can use it to get others in trouble. As such, Federal criminal lawyers and computer crime attorneys have their hands as equally full as those who are targets and subjects of a Federal Computer Crime investigation pursuant to Title 18, United States Code, Section 1030.

If you are subject to a Federal investigation involving computer hacking, a cyber crime, installing malware, phishing, or other related crime, it will be critical for you to obtain an attorney well versed not only in the law but also in computer forensics and investigation. Unfortunately, once a search warrant has been executed or the FBI or other Federal agency has questioned you, you are already behind law enforcement in confronting allegations, constructing a defense or mitigating conduct. Collectively, the criminal lawyers at Crotty Saland PC attorneys are former New York state and Federal prosecutors who have prosecuted computer crimes, had real hands on computer forensic training and investigative experience, and defended clients who faced computer crime allegations. While no two cases are alike, Crotty Saland PC’s criminal attorneys know how the government can, and often does, go about its investigation and what steps to take in order to best serve your individual needs.

Sometimes the Federal computer crime only tangentially involves the use of a computer or device, such as a typical scheme to defraud others of money or property. Other times, the alleged criminal conduct is directly tied to the use of a computer, device or internet, such as a “hacking” or “phishing” offense. For these reasons internet or computer related fraud schemes can be prosecuted under a variety of Federal offenses.

An attempt to steal another’s credit card information can be prosecuted under the Federal Access Device Fraud (typically credit cards), Title 18, United States Code, Section 1029. Other generalized fraud schemes, such as telemarketing fraud or elder fraud typically can also be prosecuted under the Mail Fraud and Wire Fraud statutes. These offenses carry sentences of up to 20 years in prison and $1,000,000 fine.

Other internet or computer hacking offenses are investigated and prosecuted under the Federal computer hacking statute, Title 18, United States Code, Section 1030 entitled “Fraud and related activity in connection with computers”. Hacking crimes involve the unauthorized access to one or more computers. With the development of the personal computer in the 1980s, the Federal government attempted to prevent access to “protected” computers. Initially, that only included certain government owned and operated computers, but over time with the internet explosion, it has come to include any computer that is used in or affects interstate or foreign commerce. As a practical matter, that includes just about any computer, smartphone, tablet and any other device that can access the internet.

What is a Computer for the Purpose of Computer Crime Offenses?

Google glasses. Laptop computers. iPhones and iPads. All of these are “computers,” right? Defining what a computer is seems like a simple question, but the Federal statute makes it more complicated. Under Title 18, United States Code, Section 1030(e)(1), the term “computer” is defined as “an electronic, magnetic, optical, electrochemical, or other high speed data processing device performing logical, arithmetic, or storage functions, and includes any data storage facility or communications facility directly related to or operating in conjunction with such device, but such term does not include an automated typewriter or typesetter, a portable hand held calculator, or other similar device.” In simpler terms, a “computer” includes any desktop or laptop computer, tablet, smartphone, internet access device, mp3 player, thumbdrive, hard drive, dvd, cd, external hard drive, among other devices. Basically any modern electronic device, including internet ready televisions and storage devices, is covered by this statute.

Beyond a Mere Computer: “Protected Computer”

Section 1030(e)(2) defines “protected computer” as any computer (A) exclusively for the use of a financial institution or the United States Government, or in the case of a computer not exclusively for such use, used by or for a financial institution or the United States Government and the conduct constituting the offense affects that use by or for the financial institution or the Government; or (B) which is used in interstate or foreign commerce or communication, including a computer located outside the United States that is used in a manner that affects interstate or foreign commerce or communication of the United States. Again, in today’s modern society, virtually every “computer” will be included in this definition.

The Crime of Computer Fraud: Title 18, United States Code, Section 1030

For all practical purposes, the Federal computer hacking and internet fraud statute makes it illegal to access anyone else’s computer without their permission or authority. The mere accessing of such data is a misdemeanor – punishable by up to one year in jail and a $100,000 fine. However, if someone accesses a computer to commit a fraud and thereby obtains over $5,000, the hacking is “bumped up” to a felony and is punishable by 5 years in prison and a $250,000. If the person has a previous conviction for computer hacking, they can be sentenced up to 10 years in prison. If the hacking results in damage to the computer or loss to the victim, the crime is a felony and can be punished by 5, 10, or even 20 years in prison.

Prosecution of Cyber Crimes

To say that Federal prosecutors are vigilant about investigating and charging all forms of crime related to computers is an understatement. In fact, over the last several years, it has become one of the FBI’s and DOJ’s top priorities. Regardless of the specific Federal crime charged, the FBI and Secret Service have advanced tools to investigate, arrest and charge individuals while the United States Attorney’s Office has the tools to severely punish offenders. Law enforcement will execute search warrants, issue preservation letters and subpoena, and use Forensic Tool Kits (known as “FTKs”). Since they will work tirelessly to investigate and prosecute their Federal criminal case against you, it is in your best interest to retain a skilled attorney with real-world computer crime experience to tirelessly fight for your rights and to identify any legal or factual defense that may be available. We, at Crotty Saland PC have the training, experience and skill to aggressively pursue the outcome you want and need. Put your best defense forward and let Crotty Saland PC’s experience, knowledge and advocacy work for you.

Call our Federal Computer Crimes lawyers and former prosecutors at (212) 312-7129 or contact us online today.

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