We use computers in nearly every aspect of our lives, so it comes as no surprise that people are now using them more and more to commit crimes. Cyber crimes present a special challenge to lawmakers and law enforcement officials, as they often evolve ahead of legislation and are more difficult to track and prosecute than conventional crimes.
That is why Illinois has passed legislation to cover computer crimes, known as the Illinois Computer Crime Prevention Law. Also, many cyber crimes are prosecuted federally, as they often cross state lines or involve federal offenses. Depending on the nature of your alleged offense, this means that you could face state or federal charges, and the penalties for both are incredibly serious.
Because of this, it is important to understand what exactly a cyber crime is and what the laws say.
What Is Cyber Crime?
At the most basic level, cyber crimes are criminal acts that use computers, the Internet, or computer networks to commit illegal activities.
These include crimes such as Internet scams, hacking, and copyright infringement. Other crimes such as identify theft, money laundering, drug trafficking, embezzlement, harassment, child pornography, and other sex crimes are also frequently committed using computers, in which case they are considered to be cyber crimes as well.
In other words, what makes something a cyber crime is how it is committed.
Illinois Computer Crime Prevention Law
The Illinois Computer Crime Prevention Law makes unauthorized computer use a criminal offense. Offenses are broken down into three categories.
Gaining access to a computer, program, or data without authorization from the owner, or creating or distributing computer viruses is considered to be computer tampering.
Aggravated Computer Tampering
Computer tampering with the intent to disrupt state or local government services or operations, or to create a probability of death or grievous bodily harm to other individuals is considered to be aggravated computer tampering.
Use of computers to commit fraudulent activities is considered to be computer fraud. Fraud refers to a variety of offenses that involve the intentional deception of a person or organization for personal or monetary benefit.
Federal Computer Crimes
Computer crimes that cross state lines or violate federal laws are often prosecuted as federal offenses. Due to the nature of the Internet, many, many computer crimes cross state lines.
Lots of crimes can be prosecuted as federal computer crimes. Some of the most common are identity theft, child pornography, solicitation of a minor, embezzlement, and other white collar crimes.
Identity theft is defined as the theft of personal information, such as someone’s social security number or full name, in order to commit fraud. This information can be used to fraudulently apply for credit, gain access to medical services, or file taxes.
Because computers are used to transmit sensitive personal information, criminals often use cyber crime to gain access to this information.
The Internet is often used to distribute or gain access to pornography, including pornographic material that involves minors. Any such material is illegal to produce, possess, or distribute, and falls under the umbrella of child pornography offenses.
Solicitation of a Minor
Similarly, many people use the Internet to meet romantic partners. However, due to its anonymous nature, sexual predators also use the Internet to find new victims. This includes pedophiles, who may attempt to solicit minors for sexual activity online, often by posing as someone much younger.
In embezzlement, the defendant has been entrusted with taking care of another person’s or organization’s money, and misappropriates that money for his or her own personal gain. Because computers are so commonly used for financial transactions, many embezzlement offenses involve cyber crime.
White Collar Crimes
There are many types of white collar crimes, but they are all typical committed for financial gain. Some common white collar crimes include fraud, insider trading, tax evasion, embezzlement, money laundering, and bribery. Many white collar criminals use computers and the Internet to commit these offenses.
About the Author
Sami Azhari has been working as a lawyer since 2007, after receiving his Juris Doctor from the Michigan State University College of Law. He has handled numerous state and federal cases, and is known throughout the Chicago and Rolling Meadows area for providing his clients with high-quality, skilled representation. He has been recognized by SuperLawyers, the National Trial Lawyers Association, and other notable organizations, and has spoken at a number of legal conferences.