In this age of technology, the computer and the internet have become an inherent part of our lives. We heavily depend on them; our computers know many things about us. Criminals are now able to use computers to commit crimes which shows clear evidence of adaptation in this digital age. These crimes are called computer crimes or cybercrimes. Federal and state laws have criminalized illegal and undesirable activities involving computers and the internet.
Computer crimes involve the use of the computer for wrongful acts. Computer laws differ depending on the state, and a computer crime may even be covered under different states or federal laws. Here are some examples of computer crimes.
1. Illegal access
Many states have made it illegal to access a computer without the owner’s permission. The crime covers all kinds of computer access including physical, electronic, or virus attacks.
2. Computer access to commit fraud
Almost every state has a law to prevent anyone from accessing a computer for fraudulent purposes. Using a computer system, computer software, or computer network to acquire goods or services illegally is a crime.
3. Data theft
Being granted permission to access a computer system doesn’t mean you can do anything you want with it. There are some data that you aren’t allowed to access or use. If you tried to access, alter, copy, or damage the data, you’ve committed a crime. You can even incur severe penalties in some states if the data theft resulted in the alteration or damage of data.
4. Child pornography
Creating, carrying, or spreading any content that depicts child pornography is a crime. All states and the federal government has laws against child pornography. The offense also covers any act of transmitting adult content (sexual or pornographic content) to children.
On the other hand, internet crime refers to any criminal act that involves the use of the internet. Both state and federal laws cover this type of crime. The laws against cybercrime cover websites, emails, identity thefts, or fraud via the internet. Some examples of these crimes are listed below.
1. Stalking, harassing, and bullying
Several states have criminalized stalking, bullying, and harassment of an individual on the internet. For stalking laws to be used effectively, the threats made through the internet need to be credible. However, in the case of harassment, the offender can be convicted even if the threats aren’t reliable. In some states, cyberbullying is a crime and covers harassment of minors.
2. Soliciting a child to do sexual acts
Almost every state criminalizes soliciting of a child to engage in a sexual act. These laws apply to any individual (18 years old and above) who is communicating with a child for sexual activities. The age limit for the victim is 16 years. An adult communicating with another adult can also be an offender if he believed the person to be underage.
3. Other crimes
Several federal and state laws may also cover computer and internet crimes. It happens when an individual uses the internet or a computer for a criminal act but isn’t covered by cybercrime laws. In such cases, other laws may also apply to cyber activities.
The punishment and penalties for these crimes vary and depend on the severity of the crime. The law may impose varying degrees of penalties, determined by the seriousness of the crime. Computer or internet misconducts may charge offenders minor fines ranging from $1,00 to $1,000. Severe offenses may also result in fines of over $100,000.
Some of the computer and internet crimes can also send you to jail. One of the serious types of cyber crimes, such as child pornography, is punishable with 20 years of imprisonment.
Probation is another type of punishment for cyber crimes. It can be given as a single, one-time punishment or sometimes as an added penalty (in addition to a fine or prison term). The terms of probation usually last for a year, but may also vary. During the probation period, the offender is expected to be employed, commit no crimes, report to a probation officer, and meet all the fines and requirements of the court.
Computer crimes have serious repercussions. An accused person may risk losing his job and credibility. Before committing any computer- or internet-related crime, ask yourself if it is worth it.