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Some kids take to hacking as a challenge to beat the system, or they do it on a dare or just because they think it is fun. Few stop to think about the consequences of changing scholastic scores to get them into a better college or invading the Department of Defense to play war games.

Hacking is the act of breaking into a computer system. Depending on the situation, the hack may not be illegal. However, in 2017, the Center for Strategic and International Studies reported that illegal hacking cost the U.S. a loss of $100 billion.

Laws

Florida statute 815 considers hacking an offense against intellectual property. A person who willfully, knowingly and without permission enters a computer system, releases a virus or destroys data and programming may be charged with the crime.

Both federal and state laws try to protect businesses and civilians against illegal hacking. These laws include the following:

  • The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act
  • The Federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act
  • Florida’s Computer Crimes Act

Penalties

Florida offenses against intellectual property can be:

  1. Third-degree felony. When an offense is third degree, the person must knowingly and willingly steal and divulge the information he or she acquired. Penalties include a prison sentence of up to five years and a $5,000 fine.
  2. Second-degree felony. A second-degree felony must pertain to the acts of defrauding a person or business by devising and executing any plan for this purpose. A second-degree felony may be punishable with a prison term of as many as 15 years and a $10,000 fine.

Under the Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, offenses include:

  • Obtaining National Security Information
  • Trespassing in a government computer
  • Trafficking in passwords
  • Extortion
  • Accessing a computer to defraud and obtain value

Penalties for these crimes can range from a one-year prison sentence to a period of up to 20 years. In some cases, the federal government allows victims to bring civil suits against the offenders for compensatory damages and other relief.