COMPUTER CRIME AND PUNISHMENT BY KEVIN HEYBOER SYSOP OF THE PINELLAS LAW ENFORCEMENT BULLETIN BOARD SYSTEM MARCH 17, 1986
The purpose and intent of this article is to acquaint the computer user and
system operators of the laws regarding computer telecommunications within the State of Florida.
Chapter 815 Florida Statutes deals with crimes against computer equipment
and crimes against intellectual property. These statutes are quoted as follows:
FSS 815.04 Crimes Against Intellectual Property
(1) whoever willfully, knowingly and without authorization modifies data, programs,or supporting documentation residing or existing internal or external to a computer, computer system, or computer network commits an offense against intellectual property.
(2) Whoever willfully, knowingly, and without authorization destroys data, programs, or supporting documentation residing or existing internal or external to a computer, computer system, or computer network commits an offense against intellectual property.
(3) Whoever willfully, knowingly, and without authorization discloses or takes data, programs, or supporting documentation which is a trade secret as defined in S. 812.081 or is confidential as provided by law residing or existing internal or external to a computer, computer system, or computer network commits an offense against intellectual property.
(4) (a) Except as otherwise provided in this subsection, an offense against intellectual property is a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided.
(b) If the offense is committed for the purpose of devising or executing
any scheme or artifice to defraud or obtain any property, then the offender is guilty of a felony of the second degree, punishable as provided.
What does all that mean exactly? It means that if you introduce a program
that is intended to destroy data on a disk, or damage the internal workings of a computer program, you can go to prison for 5 years. It also means that if you "crack" a copy protected disk and distribute that information for profit, or to prevent others from profiting, you can go to prison for 10 years. In fact, it is so loosely written that if a person was to walk up to your computer desk and pick up a diskette, and then intentionally scratch it with a pen to render it useless, if data was lost or destroyed as a result, a felony has transpired.
Computer crime is serious business and any one of us can be the victims.
What can we do about it. The first and foremost thing a user can do is to guard his password as though it were in Fort Knox. Secondly, always question the source of any program you may be offered as "public domain" or "freeware." List the program before you run it, and look it over to see if it appears that it will do what is intended. If you aren't sure, use a fresh diskette with no other data on it to run the program. If it destroys itself while running, you know it is a bogus program. (This is particularly important when running machine language programs which are difficult to translate by hand).
System Operators have a responsibility to their users too. The best thing a
Sysop can do is to maintain an accurate user log and use real names only on the board. Check the validity of the phone exchange versus the given address. Be particularly wary of phone numbers with a fourth number as a "9" as these are often payphones. Also be wary of business numbers. If you are unsure, call the number given and confirm its validity. Finally, don't be afraid to report incidences of computer crime. In order to report incidents of crimes against intellectual property, contact the law enforcement agency within whose jurisdiction your computer lies. Usually a preliminary report will be taken by a patrol officer either in person or over the phone. A detective will be assigned to follow-up the case. It may be necessary for you to be able to provide the following information:
1. Time and date of occurrence (as exact as possible). 2. Type of crime (damage to software, stolen data, etc.) 3. As much data on the identity of the offender as is known.
However, if the identity of the offender is unknown, the police and GTE can
work together to trace incoming phone calls. Above all, be patient as computer crime is a relatively new field in police work and you may have to explain the workings of the computer to the investigating officer.
This information has been provided as a public service to interested parties.
The author is not an attorney and can only report on the statutory definitions of a particular crime. Individual cases should be taken up with the appropriate investigating agency or prosecutorial authority.