More Computer Crime Statutes
The federal government can prosecute the use of a computer in a conspiracy under 18 USC 371. The defendant is guilty of conspiracy where the United States can prove 1) an agreement to commit a crime and 2) some action taken to further the conspiracy.
If the defendant is accused of using a computer to aid or further a conspiracy, then the sentence is not more than 5 years in prison. If the object of the conspiracy, that is, the crime the parties were conspiring to commit, was only a misdemeanor, the maximum sentence will be no more than the maximum sentence for a misdemeanor (one year imprisonment).
Wire fraud is another federal law where the United States can prosecute computer crime. The federal wire fraud statute is 18 USC 1343. The law criminalizes the transmission of “wire, radio, or television communication in interstate or foreign commerce” where the purpose is to fraudulently obtain money or property. Email and other communication using the internet may constitute wire fraud.
The penalty for this offense is not more than 20 years in prison. Where the conduct involves money that is supposed to be used for disaster or emergency relief, or defrauds a financial institution, then the sentence is not to exceed 30 years in prison.
Transporting stolen goods or property is a federal offense that may involve the use of a computer. The statute criminalizing the transportation of stolen goods or property is 18 USC 2314. A defendant who uses a computer to facilitate the transportation of stolen goods or property (eg, logistics in shipping and receiving) is guilty of a felony. The sentence is no more than 10 years in prison.
18 USC 2512 penalizes the use of illegal interception devices and equipment. It is illegal to possess or deliver any electronic device, such as a computer, that is designed to intercept communications. A defendant found guilty of this offense is subject to a fine and prison sentence of not more than 5 years.
Using a computer to unlawfully access stored communications is a federal offense under 18 USC 2701. The statute provides that a defendant is guilty of this crime where he or she:
(1) intentionally accesses without authorization a facility through which an electronic communication service is provided; or
(2) intentionally exceeds an authorization to access that facility;
and thereby obtains, alters, or prevents authorized access to a wire or electronic communication while it is in electronic storage in such system…
See 18 USC 2701(a).
The penalty for unlawfully accessing storage communications is a fine and not more than 5 years in prison.
The catch-all provision for computer crime is 18 USC 1030. This statute was most recently amended by the Patriot Act in 2001. Its purpose, as stated by Congress, is to protect America from cybercrime.
The law punishes 7 types of computer crimes, with each having its own penalty:
- Breach of national security or espionage. Felony with sentence of not more than 10 years imprisonment. See 18 USC 1030(a)(1).
- Illegally obtaining financial information. Misdemeanor sentence of 1 year imprisonment. If committed for financial gain, not more than 5 years prison. See 18 USC 1030(a)(2).
- Accessing a nonpublic computer from the federal government. Misdemeanor sentence of 1 year prison. See 18 USC 1030(a)(3).
- Theft from protected computer systems for the purpose of committing fraud. Felony offense with sentence of not more than 5 years prison. See 18 USC 1030(a)(4).
- Hacking into a protected computer and installing code or other malicious software to cause damage. Felony with prison not to exceed 10 years. See 18 USC 1030(a)(5).
- Distribution of protected passwords (eg, password trafficking). Misdemeanor offense with sentence of not more than one year incarceration. See 18 USC 1030(a)(6).
- Extortion by threatening harm a protected computer. Felony offense with penalty of not more than 10 years prison. See 18 USC 1030(a)(7).