Federal Hacking Laws – Some Pointers

We wanted to close out this series by pulling together some information for clients on the federal laws (US) surrounding computer intrusion and hacking. Here are some pointers for your consideration:

Internet crime is among the newest and most constantly evolving areas of American law. Although the Internet itself is more than three decades old, greater public usage began in the late 1980s with widespread adoption only following in the 1990s. During that decade the Net was transformed from its modest military and academic roots into a global economic tool, used daily by over 100 million Americans and generating upwards of $100 billion in domestic revenue annually. But as many aspects of business, social, political, and cultural life moved online, so did crime, creating new challenges for lawmakers and law enforcement. 

Crime on the Net takes both old and new forms. The medium has facilitated such traditional offenses as fraud and child pornography. But it has also given rise to unique technological crimes, such as electronic intrusion in the form of hacking and computer viruses. High-speed Internet accounts helped fuel a proliferation of copyright infringement in software, music, and movie piracy. National security is also threatened by the Internet’s potential usefulness for terrorism. Taken together, these crimes have earned a new name: when FBI Director Louis J. Freeh addressed the U.S. Senate in 2000, he used the widely-accepted term “cybercrime. 


Great explanation (dated though – 2006) of Section 18 of the US code and their relevant sections to cybercrime.

The main hacking laws are in the US Computer Fraud and Abuse Act passed in 1986 and has undergone several amendments. 

Based on the history of hacking, computer problems caused as a result of hacking were continuously increasing and like recent times ethical hacking became unpopular because of the notoriety of black hats. What do you think? If these laws weren’t there, ha! Imagine what would have been happening. I like the efforts of the US government on hacking. 

Hacking laws according to the US laws(Computer Fraud and Abuse Act) states, 

Hacking Law 1 

1.Whoever having knowingly accessed a computer without authorization or exceeding authorized access, and by means of such conduct having obtained information that has been determined by the United States Government pursuant to an Executive order or statute to require protection against unauthorized disclosure for reasons of national defense or foreign relations, or any restricted data, as defined in paragraph y of section 11 of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, with reason to believe that such information so obtained could be used to the injury of the United States, or to the advantage of any foreign nation, willfully communicates, delivers, transmits, or causes to be communicated, delivered, or transmitted, or attempts to communicate, deliver, transmit or cause to be communicated, delivered, or transmitted the same to any person not entitled to receive it, or willfully retains the same and fails to deliver it to the officer or employee of the United States entitled to receive it; 

Hacking Law 2 

2.Intentionally accesses a computer without authorization or exceeds authorized access, and thereby obtains– 

Information contained in a financial record of a financial institution, or of a card issuer as defined in section 1602(n) of title 15, or contained in a file of a consumer reporting agency on a consumer, as such terms are defined in the Fair Credit Reporting Act (15 U.S.C. 1681 et seq.); 

B.Information from any department or agency of the United States; or 

C. Information from any protected computer if the conduct involved an interstate or foreign communication;

Hacking law 3 

3. Intentionally, without authorization to access any nonpublic computer of a department or agency of the United States, accesses such a computer of that department or agency that is exclusively for the use of the Government of the United States or, in the case of a computer not exclusively for such use, is used by or for the Government of the United States and such conduct affects that use by or for the Government of the United States; 

hacking law 4 

4 Knowingly and with intent to defraud, accesses a protected computer without authorization, or exceeds authorized access, and by means of such conduct furthers the intended fraud and obtains anything of value, unless the object of the fraud and the thing obtained consists only of the use of the computer and the value of such use is not more than $5,000 in any 1-year period; 

A.Knowingly causes the transmission of a program, information, code, or command, and as a result of such conduct, intentionally causes damage without authorization, to a protected computer; 

B. Intentionally accesses a protected computer without authorization, and as a result of such conduct, recklessly causes damage; or 

C. Intentionally accesses a protected computer without authorization, and as a result of such conduct, causes damage;


Reporting Cyber-Crimes:

Every day, criminals are invading countless homes and offices across the nation—not by breaking down windows and doors, but by breaking into laptops, personal computers, and wireless devices via hacks and bits of malicious code. 

The collective impact is staggering. Billions of dollars are lost every year repairing systems hit by such attacks. Some take down vital systems, disrupting and sometimes disabling the work of hospitals, banks, and 9-1-1 services around the country. 

Who is behind such attacks? It runs the gamut—from computer geeks looking for bragging rights…to businesses trying to gain an upper hand in the marketplace by hacking competitor websites, from rings of criminals wanting to steal your personal information and sell it on black markets…to spies and terrorists looking to rob our nation of vital information or launch cyber strikes. 

Today, these computer intrusion cases—counterterrorism, counterintelligence, and criminal—are the paramount priorities of our cyber program because of their potential relationship to national security. 

Combating the threat. In recent years, we’ve built a whole new set of technological and investigative capabilities and partnerships—so we’re as comfortable chasing outlaws in cyberspace as we are down back alleys and across continents. That includes: 

A Cyber Division at FBI Headquarters “to address cyber crime in a coordinated and cohesive manner”; 

Specially trained cyber squads at FBI headquarters and in each of our 56 field offices, staffed with “agents and analysts who protect against investigate computer intrusions, theft of intellectual property and personal information, child pornography and exploitation, and online fraud”; 

New Cyber Action Teams that “travel around the world on a moment’s notice to assist in computer intrusion cases” and that “gather vital intelligence that helps us identify the cyber crimes that are most dangerous to our national security and to our economy;” 

Our 93 Computer Crimes Task Forces nationwide that “combine state-of-the-art technology and the resources of our federal, state, and local counterparts”; 

A growing partnership with other federal agencies, including the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, and others—which share similar concerns and resolve in combating cyber crime.


How to Report Computer Hackers 

Many computer users fall prey to hackers and the crimes they perpetrate on unsuspecting individuals and companies. If a crime occurs in your home or business, it’s not difficult to report the computer hacker. 

Determine which agency has jurisdiction over the crime. This will depend upon whether the crime was committed at your home or at your business, and the address of that particular location. If you live within city limits, the proper agency will generally be a police department in your town. If you live outside the city limits, within the county, contact your local sheriff’s office. 

Call the non-emergency phone number for your local police department or sheriff’s office to report the crime. Ask to speak with someone in the detective’s division about an Internet crime.


Reporting Computer Hacking, Fraud and Other Internet-Related Crime 

The primary federal law enforcement agencies that investigate domestic crime on the Internet include: the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the United States Secret Service, the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) , the United States Postal Inspection Service, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) . Each of these agencies has offices conveniently located in every state to which crimes may be reported. Contact information regarding these local offices may be found in local telephone directories. In general, federal crime may be reported to the local office of an appropriate law enforcement agency by a telephone call and by requesting the “Duty Complaint Agent.” 
Each law enforcement agency also has a headquarters (HQ) in Washington, D.C., which has agents who specialize in particular areas. For example, the FBI and the U.S. Secret Service both have headquarters-based specialists in computer intrusion (i.e., computer hacker) cases.

Ohio Laws Around Hacking

We are often asked for specific details of the legal issues surrounding hacking, computer intrusion and other criminal acts around infosec. Specifically, many of our Ohio clients ask for specific pointers. As such, similarly to what we did a couple of weeks ago with regard to child pornography, here is some vital information about the topic.

Computer hacking in Ohio falls under unauthorized use of property. Generally this is a misdemeanor of the 4th degree. If the hacking is for the purpose of obtaining property or services and the loss is under $1000 it is a 1st degree misdemeanor. Losses between $1,000-$7,500 it is a 5th degree felony, between $7,500-$150,000 it is a 4th degree felony and over $150,000 it is a 3rd degree felony. If the victim is elderly or disabled, then computer hacking is automatically at least a 5th degree felony, depending on the circumstances. 

This information is directly from the Ohio state government website and should be the most up to date info available.

Statute 2909.04 also has a section on computer intrusion and hacking, prohibiting the aforementioned activities in so far as they may interfere with the ability of public services or emergency response.

This information was obtained here.

To report instances of computer intrusion in Ohio, citizens are directed to contact their local law enforcement/sheriff’s office. In addition, citizens and organizations should also consider notifying the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), as federal laws are also likely to apply. You can contact the FBI directly through a variety of methods detailed here. 

(NOTE: MSI is not providing legal advice of any kind, consult your attorney or council for legal advice. This material is simply meant to be a pointer for education. MSI is NOT qualified to offer legal advice under any circumstance.)