Federal anti-hacking laws prohibit individuals from accessing computers, networks and data stored electronically. Crimes carried out through the internet generally classify as federal offenses because the information or financial benefits gained travel across state lines.
A Pennsylvania resident facing hacking charges may spend up to 10 years in prison if convicted for a first offense. As reported by The Hill, under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, a second or repeated offense may result in a sentence of up to 20 years.
The value of benefits received may influence the punishment
When determining punishment, the prosecution may refer to the amount of loss or damage that the act may have caused. For example, an individual who accessed a government network containing sensitive information may receive a maximum sentence.
If an offense involved accessing a website and downloading its users’ passwords, a sentence may receive a minimum of one year in prison. The prosecution, however, must prove that a defendant accessed the network with the intention of causing harm or taking something of substantial value.
Teenager receives three-year sentence for social media hack
A U.S. teenager accessed a popular social media network and purportedly took over the accounts of several celebrities and politicians. Posted messages that appeared to come from their public profiles requested the network’s users to send digital funds.
After more than $100,000 flowed through the accounts, law enforcement officials realized someone had compromised them. Investigators then traced the events back to the alleged hacker. As reported by The Verge, he pleaded guilty in a plea bargain and agreed to a three-year sentence.
Data breaches have increased, and individuals may find themselves facing allegations of unauthorized access or hacking. Although companies owe a duty of care to prevent unlawful entry into their networks, a strong legal defense may counter evidence of alleged wrongdoing.