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Could the Sony Hackers Face Federal Charges?

Recently, a Reddit user posted that the Guardians of Peace (GOP) had hacked Sony Pictures Entertainment.1 Within days, news media outlets reported that the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) was actively investigating the Sony servers breach and hinting that North Korea could be involved as the country had denounced the release of the Sony film “The Interview.”

Sony HackersThe hacker group allegedly stole an estimated 100 TB of emails, movies, and passwords, as well as the sensitive and private information of thousands of past and current employees, actors, actresses, employees and company officials. The group reportedly leaked a plethora of the information online, including several yet-to-be-released films. The GOP said they will hold the rest of the stolen information as long as Sony behaves.

What Can Happen to the Sony Hackers?

In the weeks following the attack on Sony, the FBI announced that North Korea should be held accountable for the incident. The United States approved new sanctions against North Korea after the FBI found “sloppy” hacking mistakes that included sending direct messages from North Korean IP addresses.2

What remains unclear is exactly who hacked the entertainment giant and what charges they may face if caught. As it stands currently, the hackers could face federal charges under Title 18 U.S. Code Section 1030, Fraud and Related Activity in Connection with Computers.3


The hackers could also face many related charges for unlawful online conduct, including:

  • Conspiracy charges under 18 U.S.C. Section 371
  • Aiding and abetting under 18 U.S.C. Section 2
  • 18 U.S.C. Section 1030 (a)(5)(A) – Transmission of program, information, code, or command that results in damage
  • Various extortion laws, including:
    • 18 U.S.C. Section 1030(a)(7) (transmitting, with intent to extort, communication containing threat to cause damage)
    • 18 U.S.C. Section 875(b), (d) (transmitting, with intent to extort, threat to kidnap or harm a person, or threat to injure a person’s property or harm a reputation) (Hobbs Act)
    • 18 U.S.C. Section 1951 (interfering with commerce by robbery, extortion, threats or violence)

Sony hackers could also face charges for violations of the following laws:computer

  • Password Fraud under 18 U.S.C. Section 1030(a)(6)
  • Access devices fraud under 18 U.S.C. Section 1029
  • Wire fraud under 18 U.S.C. Section 1343
  • Piracy and Intellectual Property Theft under 17 U.S.C. Sections 1201-1205 (Digital Millennium Copyright Act)
  • Trade secrets theft 18 U.S.C. Sections 1831, 1832
  • Criminal copyright infringement under 17 U.S.C. Section 506 and 18 U.S.C. Section 2319.
  • Disclosure of confidential information under 18 U.S.C Section 1905
  • Electronic Threats under 18 U.S.C. Section 875
  • Interfering with commerce by robbery, extortion, threats or violence under 18 U.S.C. Section 1951
  • 47 U.S.C. Section 223 (a)(1) (C) – Anonymously using telecommunications device to threaten person who receives communication
  • Interception of Electronic Communications under 18 U.S.C. Section 2511
  • Accessing stored communications under 18 U.S.C. Section 2701
  • Accessing a computer and obtaining information under 18 U.S.C. Section 1030(a)(2)
  • Disclosure of private information under 18 U.S.C. Section 2511(1)(c)4

The penalties the hackers could face for the above federal law violations are extremely harsh, especially when you consider that one misdemeanor violation of 18 U.S.C. Section 1030(a)(6) (password fraud) carries a penalty of up to one year in prison. A single felony conviction for hacking under 18 U.S.C Section 1030 carries up to a 10-year prison sentence and a fine of up to $250,000.

Until the alleged hackers are caught and federal charges are leveled, it is unknown exactly the punishment they will face. However, cybercrimes carry serious penalties.

Charged with a Federal Crime? Call Wallin & Klarich Today

If you have been accused of a federal computer crime, you need to contact an experienced federal criminal defense attorney today. At Wallin & Klarich, our attorneys have over 30 years of experience successfully defending our clients facing federal charges. Let us help you now.

With offices in Orange County, Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, our experienced federal defense attorneys are available to help you no matter where you work or live. We will explore every option and carefully review all of the evidence to help you obtain the best possible outcome in your case.

Call us today at (888) 280-6839 for a free and fully confidential telephone consultation. We will get through this together.


1. [http://www.reddit.com/r/hacking/comments/2n9zhv/i_used_to_work_for_sony_pictures_my_friend_still/]
2. [http://www.oregonlive.com/today/index.ssf/2015/01/sony_hacking_scandal_obamas_ch.html ]
3. [http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/1030]
4. [http://www.justice.gov/criminal/cybercrime/docs/ccmanual.pdf ]

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