Your Personal Computer was Hacked and Your Files were Stolen: Can You Sue?

 

Arizona Computer Hacking Law

It is a crime in Arizona to hack into someone’s personal computer and to access files without permission. A.R.S. § 13-2316 criminalizes “Computer Tampering.”

If a person accesses your computer without authorization—i.e., “hacks” your computer—it is a crime under one of the broadest subsections of the Computer Tampering statute, A.R.S. § 13-2316(A)(8). Under this section of the statute, it is a crime to knowingly access any computer, computer system or network or any computer software, program or data that is contained in a computer, computer system or network without authorization or exceeding authorization of use. Under A.R.S. § 13-2316(D), a hacking violation pursuant to A.R.S. §13-2316(A)(8) is a class 6 felony, which carries a minimum sentence of six months of imprisonment and a maximum sentence of eighteen months of imprisonment. Additional sections of the statute address hacking under more specific circumstances, and may create additional claims for victims of computer hacking whose files have been downloaded. A.R.S § 13-2316(C) mandates that on conviction of a violation of this [statute], the court shall order that any computer system or instrument of communication that was owned or used exclusively by the defendant and that was used in the commission of the offense be forfeited and sold, destroyed, or otherwise properly disposed.

Colorado Computer Hacking Law

It is a crime in Colorado to hack into someone’s personal computer and to access files without permission. Colorado’s Computer Crime Act comprises C.R.S. § 18-5.5-101 and C.R.S. § 18-5.5-102.

Under C.R.S. § 18-5.5-102(1)(a), knowingly accessing or using a computer, computer network, or computer system without authorization or exceeding authorized access is a computer crime. C.R.S. § 18-5.5-102(3)(b) makes this offense a class 2 misdemeanor for first time offenders of Colorado’s Computer Crime Act, which means that for first time offenders this particular section’s offense carries a minimum sentence of three months of imprisonment or a fine of $250, and a maximum sentence of twelve months of imprisonment or a fine of $1,000. If a person has a prior conviction under Colorado’s Computer Crime Act, however, C.R.S. §18-5.5-102(3)(b) classifies a violation of C.R.S. §18-5.5-102(a) as a class 6 felony, which means that this offense carries a presumptive minimum sentence of one year of imprisonment or a fine of $1,000, and a presumptive maximum sentence of eighteen months of imprisonment or a fine of $100,000. There are additional subsections of this statute that apply to more specific circumstances of hacking, and if your computer has been hacked, you may have a claim under one of these as well.

Federal Computer Hacking Law

The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) makes computer hacking a federal crime, and provides civil remedies for victims of this offense. In 1996, the National Information Infrastructure Protection Act (NIIPA) expanded the CFAA to cover even viewing information on a computer without authorization, whereas prior to the NIIPA violators could only be charged if they had acted for commercial gain. 18 U.S.C. § 1030(a)(2) criminalizes accessing a computer and obtaining information, and carries a minimum sentence of 1 year of imprisonment and a maximum sentence of 10 years of imprisonment. 18 U.S.C. § 1030(c)(2) provides more specific information on punishments for a violation of this statute. 18 U.S.C. § 1030(b) makes conspiracy to hack and attempts to hack criminal as well. Again, there are additional subsections of this statute that apply to more specific circumstances of hacking, and if your computer has been hacked, you may have a claim under one of these as well.

However, the CFAA and the NIIPA only apply to “protected computers”—those used by the U.S. government or a financial institution, or used in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce. Thus, personal computers can potentially be covered by the statute if it can be shown that they are used in or affect interstate or foreign commerce.

Under 18 U.S.C. § 1030(g), any person who suffers damage or loss by reason of a violation of this section may maintain a civil action against the violator to obtain compensatory damages and injunctive relief or other equitable relief. Similar damages may be available to plaintiffs under state laws.

How a Privacy Law Firm Can Help

Privacy attorneys can help victims of computer hacking by helping them to establish all the elements of the cause of action in a court of law, helping to prove the harms suffered by the victim, and working to shape future legislation to be fair and just for plaintiffs. Privacy attorneys can use their expertise to apply as many subsections of the relevant law to the facts of a victim’s case as are warranted by the facts, and to show how a victim’s circumstances match those outlined in each particular subsection. Privacy attorneys can also utilize expert witness resources that victims may not have access to on their own. It is advisable to seek the help of a privacy attorney if you think you are the victim of computer hacking.

By Katelynn Merkin, HopkinsWay PLLC. | © HopkinsWay PLLC 2014. All rights reserved.

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