Recognizing How Hacking Is Categorized Under the Law

Many hackers and criminals have chosen to stay hidden behind aliases or in many cases, they have never gotten caught, but that doesn’t mean there haven’t been some noticeable faces and incidents. Here’s a look at some famous hacks over time:

In 2009, Kristina Vladimirovna Svechinskaya, a young Russian hacker, got involved in several plots to defraud some of the largest banks in the United States and Great Britain. She used a Trojan horse to attack and open thousands of bank accounts in the Bank of America, through which she was able to skim around $3 billion in total. In an interesting footnote to this story, Ms. Svechinskaya was named World’s Sexiest Hacker at one point due to her good looks. I mention this point to illustrate the fact that the image of a hacker living in a basement, being socially awkward, or being really nerdy looking is gone.

In this case, the hacker in question was not only very skilled and dangerous, but she also did not fit the stereotype of what a hacker looks like. In 2010 through the current day, the hacking group Anonymous has attacked multiple targets, including local government networks, news agencies, and others.

The group is still active and has committed several other high-profile attacks up to the current day. Attacks in recent history have included the targeting of individuals such as Donald Trump and his presidential campaign of 2016.

While many attacks and the hackers that perpetrate them make the news in some way shape or form, many don’t. In fact, many high-value, complicated, and dangerous attacks occur on a regular basis and are never reported or, even worse, are never detected.

Of the attacks that are detected, only a small number of hackers ever even see the inside of a courtroom much less a prison cell. Caught or not, however, hacking is still a crime and can be prosecuted under an ever-developing body of laws. Over the past two decades, crimes associated with hacking have evolved tremendously, but these are some broad categories of cybercrime:

Identity Theft This is the stealing of information that would allow someone to assume the identity of another party for illegal purposes. Typically this type of activity is done for financial gains such as opening credit card or bank accounts or in extreme cases to commit other crimes such as obtaining rental properties or other services.

Theft of Service Examples is the use of phone, Internet, or similar items without expressed or implied permission. Examples of crimes or acts that fall under this category would be acts such as stealing passwords and exploiting vulnerabilities in a system. Interestingly enough, in some situations, just the theft of items such as passwords is enough to have committed a crime of this sort. In some states, sharing an account on services such as Netflix with friends and family members can be considered theft of service and can be prosecuted.

Network Intrusions or Unauthorized Access This is one of the oldest and more common types of attacks. It is not unheard of for this type of attack to lead into other attacks such as identity theft, theft of service, or any one of countless other possibilities.

In theory, any access to a network that one has not been granted access to is enough to be considered a network intrusion; this would include using a Wi-Fi network or even logging into a guest account without permission.

Posting and/or Transmitting Illegal Material This has gotten to be a difficult problem to solve and deal with over the last decade. Material that is considered illegal to distribute includes copyrighted materials, pirated software, and child pornography, to name a few. The accessibility of technologies such as encryption, file sharing services, and ways to keep oneself anonymous has made these activities hard to stop.

Fraud This is the deception of another party or parties to elicit information or access typically for financial gain or to cause damage. Embezzlement This is one form of financial fraud that involves theft or redirection of funds as a result of violating a position of trust. The task has been made easier through the use of modern technology.

Dumpster Diving This is the oldest and simplest way to get and gather material that has been discarded or left in unsecured or unguarded receptacles. Often, discarded data can be pieced together to reconstruct sensitive information. While going through trash itself is not illegal, going through trash on private property is and could be prosecuted under trespassing laws as well as other portions of the law.

Writing Malicious Code This refers to items such as viruses, worms, spyware, adware, rootkits, and other types of malware. Essentially this crime covers a type of software deliberately written to wreak havoc and destruction or disruption.

Unauthorized Destruction or Alteration of Information This covers the modifying, destroying, or tampering with information without appropriate permission.