Federal Cybercrimes | Cyber Crime Lawyer

Cybercrimes and internet crimes have become a significant focus for federal law enforcement agencies. These crimes range from identity theft and child pornography to spoofing and phishing. This page explains what cybercrimes are, the types of cybercrimes, and how our partner cybercrime lawyers can defend you.

If you are charged with a federal cybercrime, you need a cybercrime attorney to defend you. Book a one-hour initial consultation to speak with an internet crime lawyer today.

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Cyber Crime Lawyers

As the world becomes increasingly digital, cybercrime has become a significant problem in the United States. A 2018 survey found that almost one out of three respondents had an email or social media account hacked.

People commit cybercrimes on computers and mobile devices. These internet crimes can be committed on any device connected to the internet.

Federal cyber crimes are serious offenses in the United States and carry severe penalties. Additionally, if convicted, authorities may seize devices used in the commission of the offense and any related ill-gotten gains.

If you’re facing federal cybercrime charges, a cybercrime lawyer at the Zoukis Consulting Group can help. Book a one-hour initial consultation to discuss your situation today.

What is a Cyber or Internet Crime?

The terms cybercrime and internet crime are often used interchangeably. These constitute any criminal activity over the internet or using a computer system.

The term “cybercrime” applies to a wide variety of illegal activities. In the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is the primary federal law enforcement agency investigating these internet crimes.

Common types of cyber crimes include phishing, identity theft, hacking, and various forms of financial fraud. These crimes may be committed by a single individual or a network of people working together.

Different Groupings of Cyber Crimes

This type of internet crime can be loosely grouped by the intended target:

  • Crimes Against Individuals: These include identity theft, online harassment, and online stalking.
  • Crimes Against Companies: These primarily include data breaches (e.g., credit card information, ransomware, etc.).
  • Crimes Against the U.S. Government: These include direct attacks against federal and state governments (e.g., stealing state secrets, influencing elections, etc.).

As you can see, cyber crimes come in many different types and flavors. Additionally, they may be committed against individuals, companies, and governments.

Due to the complexity of cybercrime cases, you need an experienced cybercrime attorney to best advise you. Your attorney will explain possible defenses, retain computer and financial experts, and defend you in court.

Types of Cyber Crimes

It can be helpful to think of cybercrimes in two categories: computer crimes and internet crimes. While these are interrelated, internet crimes specifically involve the internet, while computer crimes also include access-based crimes.

Below, we present the most common types of internet crimes:

Federal Identity Theft (18 U.S.C. § 1028)

Identity theft is the act of taking someone else’s personal information for financial gain. For example, this could include stealing the following personally-identifying information:

  • Credit History
  • PIN Numbers
  • Driver’s License Number
  • Social Security Number

Defendants typically open fraudulent credit cards, loans, and bank accounts with this stolen information.

Federal Computer Crimes (18 U.S.C. § 1030(a))

Computer fraud includes a variety of computer-related crimes. Per 18 U.S.C. § 1030(a), computer crime consists of the following unique offenses:

  • Computer Espionage
  • Unauthorized Access to Information
  • Trespassing on a Government Computer
  • Computer Fraud
  • Intentional Damage or Loss by Transmission of Program or Unauthorized Access
  • Trafficking in Passwords and Computer Access Information
  • Extortion Involving Protected Computers

Federal Credit Card Fraud (18 U.S.C. § 1029)

Federal credit card fraud broadly involves the unauthorized or criminal use of credit cards. This crime is typically charged with four types of criminal conduct:

  1. Stealing and using another person’s credit card
  2. Opening new fraudulent credit card accounts
  3. Using one’s own credit card knowing the card is either expired or the account is terminated
  4. Accepting credit card payment knowing the user is not authorized to make purchases

Ransomware and Malware (18 U.S.C. § 1030)

The FBI defines ransomware as a type of “malicious software” that prevents a user from “accessing [their] computer files, systems, or networks” and demands a ransom payment.

In a nutshell, ransomware is a computer program that takes over a user’s computer or computer network while demanding payment. The cybercriminal or hacker typically encrypts the device if payment is not made, rendering it unusable.

While there isn’t a specific federal law prohibiting ransomware or malware, federal criminal charges can be brought under the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

Federal Phishing

Phishing involves contacting individuals using email, text messages, or other communications to solicit private information. Typically, this person purports to be a company representative (e.g., Wells Fargo, Bank of America, PayPal, etc.).

While there is no specific federal law prohibiting phishing, these types of offenses are often charged under federal wire fraud, identity theft, and cybercrime statutes.

Child Pornography (18 U.S.C. § 2252)

Any offenses related to child pornography are also federal cybercrimes. This incorporates two general categories of potential criminal conduct:

  • Producing Child Pornography
  • Possessing, Distribution, and Receipt of Child Pornography

The federal criminal justice system aggressively prosecutes federal online sex crimes. Defendants found guilty of even simple possession of child pornography often face significant sentencing liability.

For example, in the fiscal year 2020, 1,023 federal criminal defendants were charged with child pornography offenses. A staggering 99.3 percent of these defendants were sentenced to prison, with an average imprisonment length of 102 months. The average sentence for child pornography possession was 74 months, and the average sentence for receipt was 95 months. Sentences for hands-on sexual exploitation of children are far worse.

If charged with a federal child pornography offense, you need an experienced cyber crime lawyer. These crimes carry exceedingly harsh sentencing guidelines and require significant expertise to defend successfully. Contact us to speak with a child pornography lawyer. By retaining a lawyer, they can offer legal advice protected under the attorney-client relationship.

Solicitation of a Minor (18 U.S.C. § 2422)

Solicitation of a minor for sexual activity is also a federal crime. This generally constitutes any online communication directed towards a minor of a sexual nature. For example, this includes emails, text messages, online chat rooms, and other online communication methods.

Turning to 18 U.S.C. § 2422, federal law prohibits knowingly persuading, enticing, and coercing someone under 18 from engaging in prostitution or other sexual activity.

Solicitation of a minor is a tricky crime in that physical sexual contact is not required. Merely asking a child to take sexually explicit photos or videos and attempting to meet a minor in person to engage in sexual activity fulfill this offense’s elements.

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Federal Cyber and Internet Crimes Penalties

Penalties for federal cybercrimes vary depending on the specific offense conduct. Depending on the statute and underlying offense conduct, they may be charged as either misdemeanors or felonies.

Many varieties of cybercrimes are charged as felonies in the United States. The principal federal statute is the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). This act was enacted in 1986 and covered criminal trespassing, hacking, unauthorized access, and intent to access United States government computer systems.

Prison Sentences for Cybercrimes

First offenders of federal cybercrimes can see sentences including a prison term of up to one, five, or ten years and a fine of up to $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for organizational defendants. Repeat offenders are exposed to prison terms of up to 20 years and a $250,000 fine.

Prison sentences are targeted to specific offense conduct. For example, the following statutory maximums apply for first-time offenders, with subsequent offense statutory maximums in parenthesis:

  • Accessing a Computer and Obtaining Information: 1 or 5 years (10 years)
  • Accessing a Computer to Defraud and Obtain Value: 5 years (10 years)
  • Computer Extortion: 5 years (10 years)
  • Intentionally Damaging by Knowing Transmission: 1 or 10 years (20 years)
  • Recklessly Damaging by Intentional Access: 1 or 5 years (20 years)
  • Trespassing in a Government Computer: 1 year (10 years)
  • Trafficking in Passwords: 1 year (10 years)

Different types of cyber crimes may also be charged under federal statutes related to identity theft, wire fraud, bank fraud, and more. Because cyber crimes often violate several of these statutes, offenders can expect sentences to include at least five years of prison time, along with fines and property forfeiture, for each conviction.

How an Internet Crime Lawyer Can Help

If you receive a target letter or are charged by law enforcement for internet crimes, you must retain a federal cybercrime lawyer. Internet crimes often leave a digital trail that involves diverse charging decisions and alleged victims.

Due to the complexity of cybercrime cases, you need an experienced federal cybercrime lawyer on your side. This lawyer should have a firm grasp of statutory law, the federal Sentencing Guidelines, and possible defenses. Additionally, your criminal defense attorney should have detailed knowledge of cybercrime investigations and prosecutions.

An experienced cybercrime lawyer can review your case, understand your options, and represent you in federal court. There are available defenses, especially for accidental violations, but a lawyer should be your first point of contact.

Call a Cyber Crimes Lawyer at the Zoukis Consulting Group

Contact the Zoukis Consulting Group today to figure out the best path forward. Our team of expert prison consultants and partner federal criminal defense lawyers can explain your options, mount a vigorous defense, and ensure your rights are protected.

Book a one-hour initial consultation to speak with our team today!