With the coming of computers and computer networks, a new breed of crimes is created that were non-existing during the precomputer age. Computer crimes, also called cyber crimes are proliferating: your files may be stolen even though you still retain copies; money is easily siphoned with so-called “salami-frauds” or “round-down” frauds where thousands of cents may be sheared off in millions of transactions; confidential information may be seized through e-mail interferences; last but not the least, are . Internet services being taken over by ingenious hackers. As technology has advanced speedily, not so with the laws governing them.
Computer crimes laws prohibit performing certain acts without authorization from the owner:
- Accessing improperly into a computer, its system, or its network;
- Copying, destroying, disclosing, revising, utilizing or taking programs or data;
- Introducing into a computer system a virus or other contaminant;
- Using the computer in scheming or defraud;
- Obstructing someone else’s computer access or use;
- Making use of encryption in aid of a crime;
- Forging e-mail source information; and
- Pilfering an information service from a provider.
Protecting oneself from Cyber Crimes
There are certain things you can do to help protect yourself.
First, you are aware that cyber crime is fraud using of a computer. Be wary of warning signs of deceptive behavior and wire fraud. Do not give out sensitive personal information regarding your social security numbers, especially your bank account access codes over the internet. Wire fraud takes place over phone lines or involves electronic communications.
Your basic precaution is to keep your personal data confidential. Adopt a password that is difficult to hack and preferably, change them often. Never conduct any financial transactions on public computers or over networks without protection. You will be wise to install a good anti-virus program on your computer and always keep it updated. Lastly, be careful about downloading software from questionable websites as many contain spyware, viruses, or other malware.
Laws of Computer Crime in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania’s computer crime laws banned the use of many unauthorized activities related to computers, its systems, and networks. Due to fast pace in technology, state laws are changed to face new offense.
Pa. state law considers as criminal intentional acts to deny service or disruption of services through a computer, its system, or its network. In general, state law prohibits the use of unauthorized interference in the transmission of data or information. A prosecutor will expose the defendant’s “hacking” activities to deny computer-related activities or introduce a computer virus. For every offense, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant knowingly and intentionally participated in the unlawful act.
The state also bars any unauthorized interference with data contained on a computer, computer system, or computer network. The defendant may be pursued by prosecutor for criminal charges if computer data is accessed without consent, changed existing data, or permanently delete data.
Selling or distributing a computer software or computer programs designed and intended to damage a computer, its system, its network and its website is one method to stop computer crimes. The basis of computer crimes in Pa. is the use of computer software to facilitate unauthorized access to computer data or to disable a computer system.
A defendant maybe prosecuted by using another person’s computer or computer system, without authorization if intent to forge an email or fax communication or to falsify another type of electronic transmission through the Internet is proven. Most offenses are considered misdemeanor except when the action of the defendant is the cause of financial loss amounted to more than the amount specified by the law in Pennsylvania.
To make the work done in computer by non-owner of the unit, there must be consent. It is necessary that an authorization is given by persons or parties having rights to the computer, its system, or its network.
Penalties and Sentences
Defined by Pennsylvania statutes, a computer crime generally leads to charges considered as 3rd degree felonies. Term of imprisonment is around seven years after if the felony is a 3rd degree.
Aside from term of imprisonment, the potential penalty may also include restitution payable to the victims. If convicted, the defendant has to repay the victim for the repairs, lost profits, and data for restoration.
Be sure to protect your rights, contact a qualified criminal lawyer to make sure you are given justice.