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Even though the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act was signed into law in 1986, it has become increasingly relevant throughout the 21st century. This law was put into place to essentially criminalize any acts of hacking or similar intrusions into a computer. The penalties associated with crimes that fall under the CFAA can be severe, which is why it’s important to understand what the CFAA entails.
The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act was designed to criminalize acts that involve intentionally accessing computers without being authorized to do so. When the act was first created in 1986, it was meant to combat numerous types of computer crime. Since computers were still relatively new at that point in time, the act wasn’t as comprehensive as it would become. Since 1986, the act has been amended and expanded numerous times to ensure that it remained on pace with technological advancements.
At the moment, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act directly criminalizes conduct like:
Keep in mind that someone doesn’t need to actually commit these acts in order to be charged with a crime under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. A conspiracy or attempt to commit this type of act is also criminalized through the CFAA. Violating this law can come with jail time of as much as 10 years for the first offense and 20 years for the second offense. The exact types of penalties that could be attributed to a CFAA case depend on the type of offense that was committed.
There are around 10 distinct CFAA offenses that someone could be charged with. These offenses and the penalties associated with them include:
Keep in mind that second offenses for any of these acts can carry prison terms that range from 10-20 years.
In most situations, a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act will be a criminal case. However, plaintiffs could pursue a civil cause of action, which might eventually turn into a lawsuit. In order to pursue this type of action, the plaintiff will need to demonstrate that:
Civil actions pertaining to the CFAA have been increasing in recent years and will likely continue to rise in the next decade.
If you have been charged with any of the aforementioned crimes that fall under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, contact our criminal offense attorneys today to inquire about our services or to schedule an initial consultation.