Illegal Access of a Computer
In our society today, computers process and store tremendous amounts of data. Much of this data is made up of personal information, which can be used to identify a person. Most, if not all, organizations take measures to protect themselves against cyber security threats, but attacks can happen. If an entity accesses a computer without permission, they will face criminal charges. Unauthorized access and possible acts of fraud are taken seriously in the California penal system.
Possible Criminal Acts and Charges
In the California Penal Code, section 502 PC concerns criminal acts with regards to computers and data. Section 502 PC spans crimes including, but not limited to, altering or damaging data, deleting computer programs, inserting a virus or malware into a computer or its network, stealing data, and the unauthorized access of a computer or a network in order to steal data and commit fraud.
All of the above criminal acts can occur against a computer (hardware), a computer’s network, software, or data. Most importantly, the access of the aforementioned must have occurred without the consent of the owner. Accessing a computer without consent is illegal, as well as accessing said computer for the purpose of committing fraud or another crime. For example, an attack may occur so as to steal the personal information of millions of customers. That information can then be used for other illicit purposes.
Penalties for Unauthorized Access
The above acts are considered serious offenses in California. If a defendant is found guilty of having violated California Penal Code 502 PC, they can face either a misdemeanor or a felony. The prosecutor will move forward with the former or the latter depending on the circumstances of the case. At the minimum, a misdemeanor can result in possible jail time and fines. At the maximum, a defendant will face a felony and can be required to spend years in state prison.