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What are some cyber crimes that can result in hefty penalties?

Thanks to movies like the Matrix, just about everyone has an idea of what computer hacking is -- albeit a slightly distorted version of the actual term. As is explained by WiseGeek, in states across the nation, including here in California, computer hacking is defined as "the practice of modifying computer hardware and software to accomplish a goal outside of the creator’s original purpose."

But while most "hacks" do not result in epic chases through an office building while being chased by agents dressed in black suits and sunglasses, cybercrimes like computer hacking can lead to run-ins with the law. These run-ins with the law should be taken seriously because they can lead to harsh penalties including steep fines and prison sentences that can last anywhere from several months to several years.

So what are some cyber crimes that can result in hefty penalties? Let's start out by looking at three that can lead to penalties here in California.

Computer hacking. As we explained above, computer hacking is the unauthorized access of software or hardware of another person or business. Considered an "art form" by those in the community, hacking is considered unlawful across the nation, including here in California. A criminal charge for committing this cybercrime can include fines and time in prison.

Identity theft. This is perhaps one of the more well-known cybercrimes that can result in just as serious of charges as computer hacking. Identity theft is broadly defined as the fraudulent collection of another person's private identifying information. Because identity theft often includes some financial gain, many states will base the punishment on the amount of damage the alleged crime caused. This means if more money is considered to have been stolen, fines may be considerably harsher and prison sentences could be lengthier.

Systems interference. There are a number of things that can cause interference with computer systems. From other devices to human interference, it's important to note that knowingly and purposefully interfering with someone else's computer systems without their permission can lead to criminal charges and serious penalties.

It's worth noting that while we only pointed out three cybercrimes in this week's blog, there are many more that we did not cover. Regardless of the cybercrime charge though, it should be taken seriously and it's considered a good idea to seek the help of a skilled lawyer as well.

Source: leginfo.ca.gov, "The California Penal Code, Section 484-502.9," Accessed Oct. 20, 2014

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