What Criminal Charges in the Ashley Madison Hack Case Could Be Filed?
By now most people have been informed about the massive data heist of personal information from Ashley Madison by members of the “Impact Team” group of hackers. Ashley Madison advertises itself as an online and discreet website where individuals seeking to have extramarital affairs can connect with one another. More than one public official has had to explain their connection to the site, along with reality television personalities. Other Ashley Madison users whose personal information was revealed during the hacks have filed a civil suit against Ashley Madison and its parent company for damages. But what, if any, criminal charges could the hackers themselves face for their actions?
Suppose that the hackers could be identified and that a criminal case was filed against them in Florida: what criminal charges might they face?
Possible Charge: Offense Against Computer Users (Fla. Statute 815.06)
This offense occurs when a person willfully, knowingly, and without authorization (the key word in this statute) accesses any computer, computer system. If the hackers are found to have “obtained property” (like the information of Ashley Madison users), an offense against computer users can be considered a second class felony.
Possible Charge: Criminal Use of Personal Identification (Fla. Statute 817.568)
Florida law also makes it a criminal offense to possess the personal identification of an individual without that person’s authorization commits a first-degree misdemeanor. If the court finds that the criminal defendant possessed the personal identification information for some fraudulent purpose or committed some fraudulent act with the information, the penalties can be higher.
Possible Charge: Extortion (Fla. Statute 836.05)
Extortion occurs when a person communicates a threat to injure the person, property, or reputation of another person, expose another person to disgrace, expose another’s secret, or impute a lack of chastity to another with an intention to get a person to do something (or refrain from doing something) against his or her will. This charge may be appropriate in this case considering that the hackers attempted to get Ashley Madison’s parent company to take down the Ashley Madison and related Established Men website by threatening to make its customers’ private information public (of course, the hackers made good on their threat when the parent company Avid Life Media did not comply by permanently taking down the two websites). Extortion is a second degree felony.
Contact Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A. for Criminal Defense in Florida
Of course, these are only a few of the possible charges that could be brought against the Impact Team hackers. But you do not need to be a member of a professional group of hackers to find yourself charged with any one of these offenses. When you are, it is rarely sufficient to simply claim innocence: you must usually investigate the government’s evidence and prepare a defense designed to expose weaknesses and shortcomings in that evidence. Florida white-collar crimes defense attorney Jeffrey S. Weiner possesses the knowledge and experience necessary to assist you if you have been charged with a criminal offense in Florida. Contact his office at (305) 670-9919 to schedule a free consultation.