Federal Crime of Computer Hacking: What You Need to Know

Have you been charged with the federal crime of computer hacking? Talk to Scrofano Law. We can offer you the legal representation you need. Call us today!

Federal Computer Hacking Laws

White-collar offenses are still serious, and if you were accused of the Federal Crime of Computer Hacking, you might need a lawyer. Learn more here.

Computer hacking is a serious crime that is becoming increasingly prevalent in today’s digital age. Computer hacking laws are also changing and becoming more complex as technology evolves. If you or a loved one is facing charges related to federal computer crime, it’s essential to understand the federal laws that may apply to your case.

Computer hacking is the unauthorized access to, use, or disruption of computer systems. It can be used to commit financial crimes, steal confidential information, and even commit acts of terrorism.

The federal crime of computer hacking is a serious offense that can carry stiff penalties and punishments if you are convicted. The penalties for computer hacking vary depending on the type of crime committed and the level of sophistication used in attempting to access a protected system.

To help guide you through the complexities of a computer hacking case, below is an overview of federal laws related to computer hacking and what you need to know. We’ll also discuss the potential penalties you could face if convicted and the legal process of defending yourself against computer hacking charges.

Federal Laws Associated With Computer Hacking

The federal law for Computer Hacking–Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (18 U.S.C. § 1030)– defines and outlaws various forms of computer fraud and abuse, including computer hacking.

The Act states that accessing a computer intentionally without authorization or exceeding its authorized access and obtaining information from any protected computer system is illegal.

The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is often used to prosecute illegal conduct that falls under specific categories, including the following:

  • Unlawful access to a computer to commit fraud.
  • Unauthorized access to a protected computer.
  • Trafficking computer passwords for fraudulent purposes.
  • Accessing a computer with the intent to damage or destroy files.
  • Violating computer hacking laws that may result in criminal charges.
  • Attempting or conspiring to engage in computer hacking which can result in prosecution.

Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA)


Computer fraud and abuse may fall under both state and federal law.

Hacking into computer systems is a federal crime under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). The CFAA makes it illegal for someone to use a shared or protected computer owned by the government or a financial institution. In such cases, the computers are generally used knowingly and without authorization.

Additionally, the computers are used for their benefit or to damage or gain unauthorized access to other computer systems or networks. This includes using malicious software (malware) to gain unauthorized access to a computer system.

If a person is found guilty of violating the CFAA, they can face fines, probation, and even prison time. Individuals facing federal criminal charges under 18 U.S.C. § 1030 computer hacking laws may also be charged with additional, related federal offenses:

  • 18 U.S.C. § 641 – Embezzlement
  • 18 U.S.C. § 1029 – Credit Card Fraud
  • 18 U.S.C. § 1028 – Identity Theft
  • 18 U.S.C. § 1341 – Mail Fraud
  • 18 U.S.C. § 1343 – Wire Fraud
  • 18 U.S.C. § 875 – Extortion

Hacking Charges

Under federal law, those convicted of computer hacking can be charged with various offenses, including computer fraud, abuse, and related activities. The penalties for these charges depend on the case’s specifics but can include fines and prison sentences of up to twenty years.

Federal fraud charges are brought against individuals who use a shared computer or any other electronic device to commit fraud. These charges can result in hefty fines and prison time. Additionally, those convicted of computer hacking can also face civil liability for damages caused by their actions.


Is Hacking a Felony?

Whether or not hacking is a felony depends on the specific circumstances of the incident. The jurisdiction laws where the crime occurred also play a critical role in classifying the offense. Generally speaking, if the hacking is done for malicious purposes or to gain unauthorized access to a protected computer, it will likely be considered a felony.

Violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) may be charged as felonies. Under this Act, it is a felony to obtain information from any department or agency of the United States government by using a computer or shared computer network. Additionally, federal agencies may charge a person with a felony if they use the internet to commit fraud or to gain access to another system without permission.

If you commit computer hacking, you will face criminal penalties. The severity of the punishments depends on the type and scope of the offense. Those convicted of a computer-related crime may be subject to fines, probation, and even prison time. Additionally, they may be liable for any damages caused by their actions.

To protect yourself from potential criminal charges, you must understand the laws related to computer hacking and internet access. It is also helpful to familiarize yourself with the common hacking methods used by cybercriminals so that you can recognize and avoid them.

If you are accused of computer hacking or any other cybercrime, seeking legal advice from an experienced criminal defense attorney is vital. An attorney can help you navigate the complex laws surrounding computer hacking and ensure your rights are protected.

Penalties for Hacking

Hacking can be a serious crime with serious consequences. The penalties for hacking depend on the type of computer crime committed but can include prison sentences and hefty fines. 

Hacking a computer for financial gain, committing another crime, or obtaining information valued over $5,000 can result in felony charges, which carry a potential sentence of up to ten years in federal prison and a fine of up to $10,000 if convicted.

Get in Touch With a Defense Attorney

If you or someone you know is facing hacking or computer crime charges, speaking with a skilled defense attorney as soon as possible is essential.

At Scrofano Law, our federal criminal lawyers are well-versed in the nuances of federal laws relating to computer hacking, including the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, Electronic Communications Privacy Act, and other computer hacking laws. 

We have experience representing clients accused of gaining unauthorized access to a protected or a government computer system and can provide sound advice and guidance on federal computer hacking cases.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation and learn more about your rights and options to defend federal computer hacking charges under the law. Our attorneys are available to discuss your case and explore potential defense strategies. We can help you fight charges and protect your rights. We look forward to hearing from you.


Frequently Asked Questions 

What Are the Three Federal Laws Most Relevant to Hacking?

In the United States, the three most relevant federal laws to hacking are:

What Is the Crime of Hacking Called?

The term “hacking” is often used for cyber crimes, including computer fraud, abuse of shared computers, and unauthorized access to a protected or government computer system. Under federal laws, hacking is often called “computer fraud and abuse” or “federal computer hacking.”

Can You Go to Prison for Being a Hacker?

Yes, you can go to prison for being a hacker. If a person is found guilty of computer fraud or other computer crimes, they could face severe penalties, including time in prison. Computer hacking is a federal crime treated seriously by the justice system. Depending on the severity of the crime, it may be categorized as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

Can I Report a Hacker to the F.B.I.?

Yes, you can report a hacker to the F.B.I. The F.B.I.’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) is a resource for reporting cyber and other computer-related crimes. You can also contact your local F.B.I. office if you believe you are a victim of computer hacking or another cybercrime.

It is also possible to report computer hacking anonymously by contacting your area’s F.B.I. or other law enforcement agencies. By doing so, you can help protect yourself from possible retribution and hold perpetrators accountable for their actions.


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