We’ve all seen movies and TV shows where hackers crack the code into a top-secret system, copy vital information, or change data – and if you’re like most people, you probably know that’s a crime. But how serious is it, and will you go to prison if you’re caught hacking into a computer system for any reason? Here’s what you need to know.
What is Computer Hacking?
Computer hacking is a term that describes accessing another person’s computer and data without permission. You can be charged with hacking if you willfully, knowingly and without authorization:
- Modify data, computer programs or supporting documentation
- Destroy data, computer programs or supporting documentation
- Access computer programs or supporting documentation
- Take possession of data, computer programs or supporting documentation
- Copy data, computer programs or supporting documentation
- Disclose restricted access codes or other restricted access information to unauthorized persons
- Cause an interruption in service by submitting a message, or multiple messages, to a computer, computer program, computer system, or computer network that exceeds the processing capacity of the computer, computer program, computer system, or computer network
Is it Illegal to Look at Someone Else’s Computer Files Without Their Permission?
It’s illegal to view another person’s password-protected files, including email. That means even if you share a computer, you can’t log into someone else’s email account and start reading.
What is the Punishment for Computer Hacking?
Computer hacking is usually a Class A misdemeanor, and that means you could spend up to 9 months in jail. The court could also sentence you to pay a fine of up to $10,000. However, in some cases, computer hacking is a felony. It becomes a:
- Class I felony if you do it to defraud or obtain property
- Class F felony if it results in damage valued at more than $2,500
- Class F felony if it causes an interruption or impairment of government operations or public communication, of transportation, or of a supply of water, gas or another public service
- Class F felony if it creates a substantial and unreasonable risk of death or great bodily harm to another person
Do You Need to Talk to an Attorney About Computer Hacking Charges?
If you’ve been accused of a computer crime – including computer hacking – we may be able to help you. Call 414-383-6700 for a free consultation; you can ask us your questions and we can start developing a strategy that gets you the best possible outcome.