According to a 2018 study presented by Dr. Michael McGuire, computer crimes (also known as cybercrime or cyber crimes) drive an underground economy worth more than $1.5 trillion annually. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has an entire division devoted to identifying and combating cybercrime and also has numerous task forces devoted to specific types of computer crimes.
Computer crimes can result in charges from either state or federal law enforcement agencies. Federal court cases can be particularly unforgiving, but a conviction in any jurisdiction carries heavy penalties that weigh on you long after you have served your sentence.
Computer Crimes Defense Lawyer in Fort Worth, Arlington, Grapevine, Keller, Southlake, TX
If you were arrested for computer crimes in Fort Worth, Grand Prairie, Forest Hill, or another community in Tarrant County, you will want to be sure that you immediately retain legal counsel. Contact the Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy as soon as you possibly can.
Our firm will be able to conduct our own investigation into your incident and develop the strongest possible defense against your criminal charges. You can have us examine your case and discuss all of your legal options with you when you call (817)-422-5350 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.
Computer Crimes Charges in Tarrant County
A wide variety of crimes can be committed with a computer, usually with the aid of the Internet. Below are some of the more common violations:
- Theft of personal information, such as credit card, social security, and bank account numbers (identity theft);
- Theft of intellectual property and proprietary information;
- Child pornography; or
- Distributed denial of service attacks.
Money motivates criminals, and that holds true for cybercriminals as well. Identity theft and intellectual property theft are highly lucrative forms of Internet fraud. Criminals who gain unauthorized access to sensitive customer data files can sell that data on the so-called “dark web.” The dark web consists of a network of websites that are not indexed by search engines and which cannot be accessed by standard browsers.
Other criminals commit computer crimes with disruptive intent. A distributed denial of service attack (DDOS) is designed to overload an Internet server with a flood of simultaneous requests. These requests are sent by a network of hacked computers coordinated to overwhelm the targeted server. While the attack is ongoing, very few visitors are able to access the website. For a major corporation, a DDOS attack can quickly translate into millions of dollars in losses.
Texas Penal Code Chapter 33, titled “Computer Crimes,” defines a number of cybercrimes ranging from sexual offenses to tampering with voting machines. Section 33.02, “Breach of Computer Security,” makes it illegal for a person to access a computer, a computer network, or a computer system without authorization from the owner.
Other crimes defined under this chapter include:
- Online solicitation of a minor;
- Electronic access interference;
- Electronic data tampering;
- Unlawful decryption;
- Tampering with direct-recording electronic voting machines; and
- Online impersonation.
Texas law provides for cyber and internet crimes that rely on new technologies. Chapter 16 of the Texas Penal Code provides for criminal offenses related to the misuse of the internet. Because the internet crosses state lines and even national borders, it is a good idea to distinguish between state and federal internet offenses. Below are the internet crimes recognized in the Texas Penal Code:
- §16.02 Unlawful Use of Criminal Instrument
- §16.03 Unlawful Interception, Use or Disclosure of Wire, Oral, or Electronic Communication
- §16.04 Unlawful Access to Stored Communications
- §16.05 Illegal Divulgence of Public Communications
- §16.06 Unlawful Installation of Tracking Device
As Texas lawmakers understand how criminals utilize the internet to commit crimes, they may add more sections to the code. It is essential to contact a Texas lawyer with knowledge regarding Texas internet laws and the federal cybercrime statutes because this area of law is constantly evolving. A good Houston internet crime lawyer can help challenge the internet crime charges and ensure a favorable resolution to your case.
Fraud means tricking someone out of money or something else of value by lying or misrepresenting the facts. Frauds occur all the time without the internet. However, there are some frauds that are easier to do on the internet. Listed below are some common internet frauds.
- Internet Auction Fraud – Sites like eBay allow sellers to place items for sale for buyers to bid on them. Sometimes the sellers are legitimate, but sometimes they place a description of an item and the buyer sends the money and never gets the item. eBay tries to limit the number of fraudulent auctions but there are many other sites such as craigslist where people create fake auctions.
- Internet Credit Card Fraud – This involves phishing scams and credit card theft. Someone could steal your credits cards and use them online to buy a ton of merchandise. An online transaction contains fewer safeguards than if the thief tried to buy items with your credit card in the store.
- Internet Investment Fraud – Generally an online investment fraud deals with people overseas or out of state. You communicate online with the person and get details for a business or investment and then you wire the money to the person. More elaborate schemes might have you eventually meet the person and see more things to convince you the investment is legitimate. As a general rule if an investment promises an unrealistic return it is probably a scam.
The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) is a federal anti-hacking law. This law was enacted in 1984 as an update to the pre-existing computer fraud statute. The following acts are outlawed under the CFAA:
- Obtaining national security information;
- Accessing a computer and obtaining information;
- Trespassing in a government computer;
- Accessing a computer to defraud and obtain value;
- Intentionally damaging by knowing transmission;
- Recklessly damaging by intentional access;
- Negligently causing damage and loss by intentional access;
- Trafficking in passwords;
- Extortion involving computers; and
- Attempt and conspiracy to commit such an offense.
A common criticism of this law is that it is vague and vulnerable to abuse. The CFAA is targeted primarily at cybercriminals but is interpreted broadly.
Computer Crimes Penalties in Texas
The BCS statute encompasses many different crimes that vary in severity from a Class C misdemeanor to a first-degree felony. A person who hacks a computer system faces a range of potential punishments based on the amount of financial harm caused by their actions. A violation of this statute is charged as follows:
- Under $100: Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500;
- $100 to $749: Class B misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $2,000 and/or up-to 180 days in jail;
- $750 to $2,499: Class A misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $4,000 and/or up-to one year in jail;
- $2,500 to $29,999: State jail felony punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and/or up-to two years in state jail;
- $30,000 to $149,999: Third-degree felony punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and/or up-to 10 years in prison;
- $150,000 to $299,999: Second-degree felony punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and/or up-to 20 years in prison; and
- $300,000 or more: First-degree felony punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and/or up-to 99 years or life in prison.
A person may also be charged with a second-degree felony under this statute if they hack government computers or networks. Penalties for violating the BCS statute range from a $500 fine to life in prison.
The penalty scheme under the CFAA is complicated. The applicable penalty depends on multiple factors: the type of crime, the result of its commission, the intent of the violator, and whether the violator has any prior convictions for the same crime. You could be fined as much as $250,000 and imprisoned for one year to life.
Computer crimes are a complex issue, and the sentencing structure is equally complex. Your best bet, when charged with any type of computer crime, is to speak to a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney.
Tarrant County Computer Crimes Resources
Cyber crime costs global economy $445 billion a year: report — Read a Reuters article detailing how cybercrime cost the global economy about $445 billion every year, with the damage to business from the theft of intellectual property exceeding the $160 billion loss to individuals from hacking. A conservative estimate would be $375 billion in losses, while the maximum could be as much as $575 billion, said the study. About 40 million people in the United States, roughly 15 percent of the population, have had personal information stolen by hackers, it said, while high-profile breaches affected 54 million people in Turkey, 16 million in Germany, and more than 20 million in China.
Computer Fraud and Abuse Act Reform | EFF — The Electronic Frontier Foundation is a non-profit group focused on digital rights. Visit this website to read criticisms of the CFAA, including the disproportionate penalties for violating this law and how the CFAA’s broad language opens it to abuse by “creative” authorities.
Facts + Statistics: Identity theft and cybercrime | Insurance Information Institute — The Insurance Information Institute is an insurance industry organization with a mission to improve public understanding of insurance. Visit this link to read the results of a 2018 study on identity theft. Here you can read about how much money was stolen by identity thieves between 2016 and 2017. You can also see a breakdown of how stolen information is used by criminals.
Find A Tarrant County Defense Attorney for Computer Crimes | Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy
Were you recently arrested for an alleged computer crime in Arlington, Keller, Bedford, or another area in Tarrant County? You will want to be quick to seek the help of the Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy.
We can work to ensure that you do not face the most serious penalties and may be able to get your criminal charges reduced or dismissed. Call (817)-422-5350 or contact us online to receive a free consultation.