WHAT ARE CYBERCRIMES?
May 3, 2021
Cybercrime can be defined as any crime committed using a computer or crimes that target the computer of an individual, organization, or government agency. That includes cell phones, laptops, desktops, and any other internet-enabled device.
With that in mind, the government can’t just seize your computer. Instead, it must adhere to strict protocols and produce evidence sufficient to prove that you or someone else used your computer to commit a crime. Otherwise, the police or federal authorities may be guilty of an illegal search and seizure.
For the most part, cybercrimes are classified into the following categories:
- Cybercrimes committed against individuals
- Cybercrimes committed against the federal government or government agencies
- Cybercrimes against organizations and companies.
If you’ve been charged with committing federal cybercrimes, it’s in your best interest to consult with an experienced federal criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. Continue reading to learn more about federal cybercrime laws, protections against illegal search and seizure, and defenses to cybercrime charges.
According to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), 18 U.S.C § 1030, an individual can face federal cybercrime charges for committing the following crimes with a computer or against a computer system, but not limited to:
- Trespassing (i.e., hacking) against a government computer system or otherwise protected computer
- Cyberattacks against government computers, bank computers, or other types of computers used for or affecting interstate or international commerce. That can include viruses, DoS attacks, trojan horse attacks, and more
- Using any computer to commit acts of espionage
- Threats to damage computer systems operated by the government, banks, or commercial institutions
It’s important to note that any internet-enabled device can be considered a “protected device.” That means that crimes committed against or with computers owned by the government, individuals, organizations, and the like can be charged as federal cybercrimes.
According to the federal sentencing guidelines, individuals charged with cybercrimes may face up to 20 years imprisonment, fines, and restitution payments. In extreme cases, the defendant could be punished by up to life in prison.
However, first-time cybercrime offenders are generally punished less harshly than repeat offenders. Consulting with a cybercrimes defense attorney can potentially reduce penalties and charges.
Under the Fourth Amendment, U.S. citizens are protected from unreasonable search and seizure by law enforcement. However, many cybercrime laws conflict with 4th Amendment rights.
For instance, law enforcement may use “creative” methods to catch cybercriminals that aren’t necessarily legal. As a result, many “cybercrime busts” violate the constitutional rights of citizens.
If you’ve been the victim of an unlawful search and seizure resulting in cybercrime charges, we recommend that you immediately consult with a federal criminal defense lawyer for cybercrimes.
Unlike most other federal crimes, cybercrimes can be applied to just about any illegal act committed with the use of a computer or against a computer. With that in mind, the current cybercrime laws are incredibly vague.
Defendants are often surprised to learn that they are being charged with federal crimes for seemingly benign or inconsequential acts.
A few of the most commonly prosecuted computer-based crimes include:
- Password theft
- Creation or possession of child pornography
- Identity theft
- Solicitation of a minor for sex
- “Hacking” into another individual’s computer
- Threatening to damage a computer unless the victim pays money (i.e., cyber extortion)
- Using a fake social media profile to commit fraud or cause harm to others
- Money laundering
- Facilitating illegal drug trafficking, sales, or manufacture
- Acts of terrorism
Since cybercrime laws are so vague, the federal government can easily charge an individual with a cybercrime offense – even if that person is not actually guilty of committing a crime.
If you’re facing felony cybercrime charges, there are a few possible defenses available. Continue reading to learn more.
A federal cybercrime conviction can lead to harsh penalties. With that in mind, your cyber-crime criminal defense attorney can potentially mount the following defenses, depending on the circumstances:
- The defendant was authorized to use the computer
- The defendant received authorization to alter or destroy data on a computer system
- The defendant had the right to reproduce or copy specific software
- Illegal search and seizure committed by law enforcement
- Lack of evidence produced by the prosecution
- Mistaken identity
Cybercrime convictions can lead to years in prison and hefty fines. If you’ve been charged with a federal cybercrime, it’s not the end of the road. An experienced attorney can help you understand the charges against you, investigate law enforcement procedures, and mount a strong defense.
Former federal prosecutor, respected lawyer committed to delivering results. Following graduation from the University of Illinois College of Law, Paul Padda began his career in 1994 with the United States Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. litigating complex civil cases in both federal trial and appellate courts. He later was selected to serve as an Assistant United States Attorney in the District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.) where he handled a wide array of civil matters in federal court on behalf of the United States of America. In 2004, Mr. Padda moved to Las Vegas to serve as an Assistant United States Attorney where he litigated both civil and criminal cases. Following 16 years of significant legal experience involving high stakes litigation, Mr. Padda decided to form a law firm that would assist individuals and businesses in vindicating their legal rights.