The term “computer crimes” encompasses a wide variety of offenses.
The nature of these crimes does not vary much regardless of whether you live in Nebraska or a different state.
Although federal authorities prosecute most computer crimes, the Nebraska Computer Crimes Act is one of the state computer crimes laws that grant Nebraska broad authority to prosecute computer crimes.
Definition of Computer Crimes
A computer crime is an offense using computer technology. The crime might involve theft, vandalism, child pornography, harassment, or other illegal activity.
The only thread that binds these disparate offenses together is their use of computer technology.
Types of Computer Crimes
Identity theft is probably the most well-known type of computer crime, but it is not the only kind. Let’s take a look at some varieties of computer crimes that exist in Nebraska.
Identity theft occurs when the offender gains access to sensitive information about someone. That information might include their credit card number, ATM password, or social security number — among other things.
The offender can then use this information to steal the victim’s money or run up debts in the victim’s name.
Computer hacking is the process of gaining unauthorized access to a computer network, database, or file. The hacker might then commit identity theft, plant a virus, or perform some other malicious activity.
Illegal computer hacking is a felony under federal law. Not all hacking is unlawful, however. A company might actually pay a computer hacker to hack into its own network to expose the network’s security vulnerabilities.
These days, most child pornography is online. An offender might use computer technology to create, distribute, or consume child pornography.
An offender might also seek out children with the aim of eventually using them to create child pornography.
The government has many ways of apprehending someone involved with internet child pornography, and punishments tend to be extremely severe.
Cyber Stalking or Cyber Harassment
Nebraska can prosecute stalking and harassment regardless of whether or not the offender used computer technology. Computers simply open up another means of committing these crimes.
A cyberstalker often has had real-world contact with the victim but uses excessive or threatening messages to harass them online. The legal status of this behavior is often ambiguous. At what point, for example, does mere persistence become unlawful harassment?
Piracy is an intellectual property crime, typically involving copyrights. It becomes a computer crime when the offender uses computer technology to commit the crime.
For example, someone might offer paid or even free downloads of copyrighted material without first obtaining a license from the copyright holder.
Many different types of media might be involved, including music, photographs, computer software source code, films, etc. File sharing is a popular form of internet copyright infringement.
In some cases, merely receiving copyrighted material is not a crime but a civil offense. In other cases, however, the consequences can be serious. Contract an intellectual property lawyer if you are unsure.
Most copyright piracy cases are federal offenses.
The Nebraska Computer Crimes Act
The Nebraska Computer Crimes Act criminalizes many of the above-described offenses that could otherwise only be prosecuted by federal authorities.
Some of the features of this statute are as follows:
- Unauthorized access to a computer that endangers public health or safety is a Class I misdemeanor.
- Unauthorized access to a computer that endangers data security is a Class II misdemeanor.
- Unauthorized access to a computer in an attempt to obtain confidential public information is also a Class II misdemeanor.
- If you exceed your access authority, it is a Class V misdemeanor. This applies if you were granted access to a system, but you chose to exceed or step outside the boundaries of your legal access authority.
- Accessing a computer network with the intent to steal or deprive someone of property or services is a Class IV felony—but if the value of the property or services exceeds $1,000, it is a Class III felony.
- Access plus computer vandalism (inserting malware to destroy data, for example) is a Class IV felony. However, if losses total $1,000 or more, it becomes a Class III felony.
Penalties for all of the foregoing computer crimes increase for second, third, and any subsequent offenses.
National and International Ramifications of Online Activity
The internet—as well any private computer network—is borderless. It is possible to perform an act in Nebraska that is a crime in another state or even another country, even if it is legal in Nebraska.
The case of Joe Gordon is an extreme example of this phenomenon. Gordon is a US citizen who uploaded links to a biography of the King of Thailand while in Colorado.
Thailand banned the book because Thai officials considered it offensive to the monarchy.
Gordon subsequently traveled to Thailand, where he was arrested and imprisoned for insulting the Thai monarchy under Thailand’s lese majeste law.
Thai authorities reasoned that Thai law applied to his activity in the US because users located in Thailand could access the links he posted.
Contact Peterson Criminal Law Today
At Peterson Criminal Law, we don’t judge you, and we don’t lecture you. We defend you.
Attorney Tom Peterson personally handles all cases, and it’s a good thing he does. He was selected as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers after meeting the most stringent qualifications for inclusion.
If you are facing a computer crimes charge, call us at (402) 509-8070 or contact us online for a free initial consultation.