Computer Hacking FAQs

What Is Hacking?

Hacking, which is more formally known as “unauthorized computer access,” is defined in California law under Penal Code 502 (c) as intentionally accessing any computer, computer system or network without permission. Examples of hacking include an employee accessing a restricted computer system without authorization at work or a husband guessing his wife’s password to read e-mails without permission. Additionally, a person who intentionally provides another party with access to a computer without authorization can be convicted under this law.

What Is the Penalty for Hacking?

Hacking is usually considered a misdemeanor that is punishable with up to one year in county jail. However, the actions you took after gaining unauthorized access to someone else’s computer play a role in the severity of the punishment you will receive if convicted.

If you are convicted but the court determines that no injury resulted from your unauthorized access, you will face a fine of up to $1,000. However, if you are convicted a second time, you may receive additional penalties:

  • Up to one year in county jail
  • Misdemeanor probation
  • Fines up to $5,000

Which Types of Hacking Receive More Severe Penalties?

There are several types of hacking offenses that come with more severe penalties. These are a few specific examples.

Introducing Malware

If you intentionally infect another person’s computer with viruses, software, worms or scripts and your actions cause damage to data or result in the transmission of information without the owner’s consent, you could face a penalty for introducing malware. If your actions caused no injury and you are not a repeat offender, the punishment will not go up, but if this is a repeat offense or the victim suffered damage the penalties become more severe:

  • 16 months, two years or three years in county jail
  • Fines up to $10,000

Hacking Into Public Safety or Government Services

If you are convicted of breaking into a public safety or government computer or assisting someone else in doing so, you will face the same punishments as for introducing malware. An example could be an employee with access to driving records helping someone without access to alter a driving record.

Using Services Without Permission

It is illegal to intentionally use other people’s internet, data processing, e-mail, storage or computer time without their permission. This would include such actions as using your neighbor’s wifi without permission.

This violation is treated as a misdemeanor if it is a first-time offense and caused no injury and the value of the services used is less than $950. However, it carries the same penalty as introducing malware if one or more conditions are met:

  • It is a repeat offense.
  • The victim suffered damages that exceed $5,000.
  • The value of the services used exceeds $950.

The use of computers has become integral to daily life and cybercrimes are on the rise. If you have been accused of a cybercrime, law enforcement may pursue you aggressively. The team at Chambers Law Firm includes experienced cybercrime defense attorneys. Contact us at 714-760-4088 or online for a free consultation.

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