We live in a technological society that has opened new avenues of commerce and growth. At the same time, a new gray area has opened up for prosecution. The internet hasn’t just brought along the onset of social media and online shopping. It has also given us viruses, DDoS attacks, hackers, worms, ransomware, and more. Often, though, the lines between what’s legal online and what’s not can be confusing, especially for new techies who are testing out their computing skills. In this post, I’ll be covering what cybercrimes are and delving into a few specific types of cybercrimes.
With the continual growth and evolution of technology, the scope of cybercrimes also grows. It’s a field that will continue to change, which means what may be legal today, may not be legal tomorrow. For individuals who are pushing the technological limits and exploring their computer know-how, this can be problematic.
Along with other states, and a slew of cybersecurity companies, Florida is doing its best to stay on top of this shifting legal landscape. Currently, Florida divides cybercrimes (or computer-related crimes as the Florida Statute is called) into offenses against intellectual property and offenses against computer users and systems.
Offenses Against Intellectual Property
Intellectual property, or “creations of the mind,” as it’s often defined, includes everything from trade secrets like what exactly is in Coca-Cola to your favorite musician’s songs. Intellectual property can also be data, software, computer programs, and more.
An offense against Intellectual Property, then, involves damaging, stealing, disabling, destroying, or illegally distributing intellectual property. Knowingly infecting a system with a virus, hacking a company’s trade secrets, or intentionally introducing debilitating malware are all offenses against intellectual property.
These types of attacks are generally against companies or organizations, such as movie piracy or distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks against an online provider. (As a computer user, you may remember the 2016 Dyn DDoS attack that made it difficult to access popular sites like Netflix and Amazon. This DDoS attack used the Internet of Things devices to leverage computing power.)
Offenses Against Computer Users and Systems
The category of “offenses against computer users and systems” has grown to cover a variety of devices in addition to the individuals who use them.
In fact, the Computer-Related Crimes Florida Statute defines a computer system as “a device or collection of devices, including support devices, one or more of which contain computer programs, electronic instructions, or input data and output data, and which perform functions, including, but not limited to, logic, arithmetic, data storage, retrieval, communication, or control.”
This means that in addition to our computer and smartphones, other devices such as “Internet of Things” devices (smart TVs, WiFi-connected appliances, printers, baby monitors, and more) are also included under the term “computer systems.” This may not be clear to a computer ingenue who is interested in bitcoin mining and who would like to get as much computational power involved in the task. However, according to this statute, one cannot use other’s devices to score bitcoins unbeknownst to them.
The most prevalent cybercrime against computer users and systems is currently ransomware. This is the hijacking of a system or software which doesn’t allow a user access until they pay the attacker. This type of attack has been leveraged against both corporations and individuals alike.
Phishing is another common cybercrime that can result in computer users unwittingly divulging their personal information. Phishing emails and websites are made to mimic legitimate emails and sites in order to secure passwords and other personally identifying information that can be used in a variety of ways, including applying for credit cards and other acts of identity theft and fraud.
To prove these types of computer crimes, prosecutors will attempt to show that a defendant knowingly acted with malicious intent to harm or disable a computer system or user.
Punishment for Cybercrimes in Florida
Cybercrime is taken very seriously by both the state and the federal government. Federally, the FBI investigates instances of cybercrime and federal prosecutors fight for stiff punishments.
In Florida, cybercrimes are prosecuted as felonies. The scope of the crime and the damage caused by the crime will impact charges and punishment.
For example, a ransomware attack against a county government that disrupts public services can be prosecuted as a second-degree felony. On the other hand, accessing information on the same computer (without disrupting public services) would be prosecuted as a third-degree felony (assuming no mitigating factors).
If you’ve been charged with a cybercrime or are under investigation for a cybercrime, consulting with a Tampa defense attorney can help you defend your rights.
Charged with a Cybercrime? Call Mike G Law
As a former prosecutor, I have years of experience building cases against defendants. Now, as a Tampa defense attorney, I use those same skills to determine the best course of action for my clients. As someone who has worked within both the state and the federal court systems, I know how to effectively work within the system to help my clients. I can help you challenge charges or negotiate a better deal, depending on the circumstances of your case.
There are numerous possible defenses to cybercrime charges, though the specifics of your case and the charges against you will do much to inform how we proceed. Possible defenses include highlighting that there is insufficient evidence to link you to a cybercrime, showing that you were not aware that your actions were a crime, or illustrating that you were authorized to access or otherwise interact with the devices, computer, or network in question. Ultimately, the best way to proceed when charged with a cybercrime is to discuss your case with a skilled Tampa cybercrime attorney.
Punishments for cybercrimes are increasing as fear is stoked by large-scale hacking events that make the headlines. Don’t get swept up by an overreaching prosecutor—defend your rights and make sure you have a great Tampa defense attorney on your side. Contact Mike G Law today.