Computer Crime (West's Encyclopedia of American Law)
The use of a computer to take or alter data, or to gain unlawful use of computers or services.
Because of the versatility of the computer, drawing lines between criminal and noncriminal behavior regarding its use can be difficult. Behavior that companies and governments regard as unwanted can range from simple pranks, such as making funny messages appear on a computer's screen, to financial or data manipulation producing millions of dollars in losses. Early prosecution of computer crime was infrequent and usually concerned EMBEZZLEMENT, a crime punishable under existing laws. The advent of more unique forms of abuse, such as computer worms and viruses and widespread computer hacking, has posed new challenges for government and the courts.
The first federal computer crime legislation was the Counterfeit Access Device and Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (18 U.S.C.A. § 1030), passed by Congress in 1984. The act safeguards certain classified government information and makes it a misdemeanor to obtain through a computer financial or credit information that federal laws protect. The act also criminalizes the use of computers to inflict damage to computer systems, including their hardware and software.
In the late 1980s, many states followed the federal government's lead in an effort to define and...
(The entire section is 2935 words.)
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