The global pandemic has drastically changed the way most people shop. People now order groceries online, use social media for leisure, shop on e-commerce sites, and use platforms to store all their passwords and other identifying information. Many individuals and organizations alike have moved to the internet to conduct simple transactions and most people fail to realize the risk in these everyday actions. However, criminals have aimed their conduct in obtaining this data.

Unauthorized computer access is referred to as hacking. Hacking is when someone uses a computer to gain access to data in a system and doesn’t have permission.  Hacking is illegal under both Colorado law and federal law. A conviction under either state or federal laws can result in severe penalties.

Below is an outline of state and federal laws, penalties, and potential defenses for the charge of unauthorized computer access.

Colorado Unauthorized Computer Access Law

Under Colorado Revised Statue § 18-5-102, unauthorized computer access, also referred to as a computer crime, occurs when a person:

  • Knowingly accesses a computer, computer network, or computer system without permission or authorization
  • Defrauds a person or holds information to extort them
  • Wrongfully accesses and controls money, property, or data through which a computer may be accessed
  • Accesses a computer to commit theft
  • Without authorization, alters, damages, interrupts, destroys, or otherwise uses any data
  • Intends to cause damage or interrupt a properly functioning computer by introducing contaminants or viruses into a computer system
  • Uses software to circumvent or disable electronic queues, waiting periods, or other technological measures to limit the number of event tickets purchased by anyone.
  • For purposes of computer crimes, if a person uses a mobile phone, tablet, or another electronic device, they will still fall within the Colorado statute.

Under Colorado law, the offender can be charged with either a misdemeanor or felony. The charge classification will depend on whether it is a first or second offense and the circumstances of the crime. If sentenced as a misdemeanor, the defendant faces six months and up to 18 months in jail and fines. A felony conviction will result in a minimum of one year jail time, with a maximum of 24 years. Penalties are also substantially more.

Federal Unauthorized Computer Access Law

The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act was passed in 1984 to address the unauthorized access and use of computer and computer networks. Under federal law, the following conduct classifies as unauthorized computer access:

  1. Obtaining national security information
  2. Accessing a computer to get information
  3. Trespassing in a government computer
  4. Accessing a computer to defraud or obtain value
  5. Knowingly cause the transmission of a program, information or code
  6. Trafficking in passwords
  7. Extortion involving computers.

Under federal law, U.S. prosecutors have a period of 5 years to bring forward charges. The time starts from the date of the criminal activity. If charges are brought, the penalties for hacking include steep fines and long-term prison sentences.

Hacking Defenses

If a person is charged with unauthorized computer access, finding a competent cybercrimes attorney can help you prepare for defenses. Issues of intent or knowledge may be some factors to raise. However, the defense will be specific to the particular circumstances of your case. Contact the computer crimes attorneys at Moorhead Law Group for a free consultation.