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Florida Teenager Charged with Felony Cybercrime

Recently, a middle school student was charged with a felony for an alleged cybercrime. Domanik Green, an eighth-grader who attends Paul Smith Middle School in Holiday, Florida, admitted to stealing a teacher’s password and accessing the schools closed network through the teacher’s account. While the student was likely only accessing the network as a prank to change the teacher’s desktop wallpaper, he is being met with the full force of the law because of the sensitive nature of data stored on the network. Local prosecutors are concerned that he might have accessed standardized test questions, although there is no evidence that he intended or attempted to do so. This teenager’s case is likely meant as a cautionary tale for other potential hackers.

Forms of Computer Crime

As the frequency of hacking computer networks has increased, prosecutors are on the lookout for computer crime in its many forms. Common activities that can result in criminal charges under Florida and federal law include infecting computers with viruses, sending out Trojans, and implanting spyware or ransomware.

Viruses can replicate themselves and spread to other computers. The damage that is often wreaked by viruses includes deleting files, reformatting hard drives, or taking up space in the computer’s memory. Trojans, on the other hand, are destructive programs that are disguised as legitimate applications. While they cannot replicate themselves, they can allow outside users access to your system and data and use it as they please. Spyware gathers information, unbeknownst to a computer user, and transmits it to outside users. Spyware is often used to harvest browser history and other information about a person’s online activities. Some forms of spyware monitors and records keystrokes, collecting passwords and personally identifiable information that can be valuable to identity thieves. Ransomware is a relatively new form of malware that holds individuals’ data hostage until they pay the hacker.

The Florida Computer Crimes Act makes the use of these types of software illegal. Under the act, anyone who spies on computer users by accessing their data through a computer, computer system, computer network, or electronic device can be charged with a felony. Offenses are third degree felonies if they involve engaging in surveillance or other related activities, and are second degree felonies if they are perpetrated in order to defraud or obtain property in excess of $5,000 in value from the computer user. In Florida, a third degree felony can be punished by up to five years in state prison, and a second degree felony can result in up to 15 years in prison.

Seek Counsel Immediately If You are Facing Charges

If you are concerned that you are in danger of being investigated or charged for a computer-related crime in Florida, you need a dedicated criminal defense attorney at your side. Jeffrey S. Weiner has decades of experience defending clients against allegations of fraud, and as the laws adapt to new forms of crime, we are always ready to guide our clients through the process of mounting a strong criminal defense. Contact our Miami office today for a consultation.

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