Nowadays, no business or individual can function properly without access to the Internet or computer. Many businesses and people rely on the Internet to store and process personal, financial, and identifying information. This makes them targets of hackers, who gain access to data without permission to access that data.
Luckily, hacking and unauthorized use of a computer is illegal under both Pennsylvania and federal law. Unfortunately, however, pretty much anyone can be accused of criminal activity involving computers and the Internet, and, oftentimes, hacking and authorized use of computer accusations are false or fabricated.
“The importance of defending yourself in an unauthorized computer access case cannot be overstated, because this type of crime carries heavy penalties,” warns our Pittsburgh unauthorized use of computer attorney from SMT Legal.
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Some of you might be wondering, “What does unauthorized use of a computer even mean?” You can be charged with this type of Internet crime when you knowingly use or cause the use of a computer or computer service without authorization and permission to access that data.
In Pennsylvania, unauthorized computer access, also known as hacking, carries penalties that range from a year in prison to seven years in prison, depending on the severity of the crime. Criminal activity on the Internet or involving a computer is prohibited by the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986.
Our experienced hacking criminal defense attorney in Pittsburgh explains that gaining access to a protected computer such as a bank or government computer connected to the Internet is a misdemeanor under federal law. Penalties become much more severe if the criminal activity involved financial gain. For example, if you gain access to computer data worth more than $5,000, the offense can be charged as a felony punishable by up to 10 years if you were convicted of computer crime in the past.
If you were seeking access to information relevant to national security, the penalties will go up to 10 years for those with no prior convictions, or 20 years for those previously convicted of a computer crime.
Under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), any of the following acts can fall into the category of “unauthorized computer access”:
Unfortunately, the language used by the CFAA is up to interpretation, which is how prosecutors have been able to wrongfully convict innocent people of hacking and other computer crimes. Under federal law, the penalty for gaining unauthorized access to a computer can be up to 10 years in prison.
One of the most common defenses to the unauthorized use of computer charges is that the accused has been falsely accused. If you are represented by a skilled criminal defense lawyer in Pittsburgh or elsewhere in Pennsylvania, you may be able to either downgrade your sentence from felony to misdemeanor or avoid hacking charges altogether. Contact SMT Legal to get a free consultation today. Call our offices at 412-765-3345.