Articles Posted in Internet Crimes

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Khairullozhon Matanov could have said nothing. Instead, the 24-year-old taxi driver voluntarily told police what he knew about his friends Tamerlan and Dhzokhar Tsarnaev, the two brothers who set off bombs near the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon. He told police he had dinner with the Tsarnaev brothers the night of the bombing, but lied about some of the other aspects of his relationship to the brothers. Matanov changed his story about facts such as whether Tamerlan Tsarnaev lived with him and his family, and when they last prayed together.

Erasing Internet HistoryWhile lying to the police can lead to charges of obstruction of justice, Matanov’s real troubles did not begin until he went home after speaking with the police. When he got home, he got on his computer, opened up his Internet browser, and erased the history of his searches and page views. That simple act – one that countless people do on their computers every day – could have resulted in Matanov receiving up to 20 years in federal prison.1

Fearing that he could spend decades in prison, Matanov accepted a plea agreement with federal prosecutors. In exchange for pleading guilty, the prosecution recommended that Matanov serve 30 months in prison.

The Scandal That Changed the Law

Matanov is facing charges of destruction of evidence under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, a 2002 law that Congress passed in response to the corporate accounting scandals by companies such as Enron. The scandals involved “cooking” the books to hide billions of dollars in debt and failed enterprises. Once the truth about the failures came to light, investors lost billions as the companies’ stock prices fell.

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With constantly advancing technology and the increasing number of internet users, the number of internet crimes committed has also increased in recent years. Internet users engage in various activities daily, and some of these activities could unintentionally lead to criminal charges. Some people use the internet to commit crimes intentionally, and many of these crimes don’t even make it to the headlines. The normal internet user is not even aware of the different kinds of crimes that can be done electronically, and that’s why they may become victims of internet crimes. Some common internet crimes committed are listed below:Sex Offender Registries

Spoofing or Phishing (Business and Professions Code Section 22948.2)

Spoofing or phishing is the act of accessing a computer without authorization and sending multiple email messages in order to deceive the recipient. False information may be sent to the recipients who then become victims of this kind of internet crime. Anyone arrested for this crime can face a possible jail sentence of three years for a first offense. If the sender is also spamming for commercial gain, they may face up to five years in prison.

Extortion or Blackmail (PC 524)

When someone uses the internet to cause damage with the intent to extort money or something of value from another person, it is referred to as blackmailing. The hacker or person engaging in such activity may be threatening the victim to expose confidential information about them in exchange of money. Offenders can face hefty fines and a maximum sentence of up to five years in prison.

Prostitution (PC 647(b))

When someone tries to coerce, engage, or entice another individual into prostitution, they may face up to 20 years in prison.

Criminal Copyright Infringement (18 U.S.C. Section 2319)

Infringing a copyright or distributing someone’s work for financial gain on a computer network can carry a possible sentence of three years in prison. The penalty and consequences will double for repeat offenders.

Child Pornography (18 U.S.C. Section 2252)

Using the internet to transmit child pornography carries a minimum sentence of 5 years, up to a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Electronic Harassment

When someone anonymously uses the internet to threaten, abuse, harass, or annoy someone, they could face criminal charges that carry up to two years in prison. Continue reading →

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warrant to search cellphoneUnder current law, law enforcement cannot simply search your or your property in most cases. In order to conduct a valid search, police must seek a search warrant. However, a warrant can only be issued if there is probable cause to search you or your property.

Unfortunately, this same protection does not extend to electronic communication information or electronic device information. In other words, your mailbox is protected more than your email folders. Law enforcement officials can freely peruse your smartphone information or Macbook data without having to obtain a search warrant, and they often do so from remote locations without you ever knowing.

Luckily, this could all change if a bill awaiting California Governor Jerry Brown’s approval is passed into law.

Proposed Law Would Require Search Warrants for Electronic Devices

The proposed law would add a new section to California Penal Code Sections 1546 that would require authorities to obtain a search warrant before conducting any kind of electronic surveillance. This type of behavior typically includes tracking cellphone locations, checking phone records, accessing emails and viewing online browser histories.

In addition, the bill would protect service providers such as Verizon, AT&T and Time Warner Cable. It will be illegal for government officials to compel these service providers to provide them with information about their clients. However, a search warrant can be issued to obtain this information, or the service provider can voluntarily turn over this information as long as it is done in a manner that does not violate state or federal law.

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While most users’ Instagram pages consist of snapshots of gourmet meals, tropical vacations, and #nofilter selfies, other individuals have instead gone with a potentially incriminating approach that could be admitted as evidence against them in a court of law. The following examples explain why you need to be careful what you post on social media, because it could lead to facing serious legal consequences.

How an Instagram Post Sent a Minor to Jail

texting illegalRecently, a juvenile’s conviction on two counts of possessing firearms was affirmed by a state appellate court based on a photo the teen had posted to his Instagram account. The juvenile lawyers argued that the images, which depicted the teen wielding multiple guns in a room with camouflage curtains, should not be admitted as evidence because there was no way to verify their authenticity.

The unanimous ruling, however, concluded that the images could be used as evidence. The reason for this ruling was due to the fact that the images were captured from a cell phone that was found at the scene of the crime and appeared on the defendant’s Instagram account. Additionally, the court reasoned that the clothes the defendant was wearing and his location upon arrest matched what was depicted in the Instagram photo.1

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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

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Publishing nude photos online with the “intent to cause serious emotional distress or humiliation” violates a revenge porn law signed Monday by California Governor Jerry Brown.

Gov. Brown signed Senate Bill 255 (SB 255) into law, officially banning persons from publishing nude photos of others online without their permission in California.

The bill was sponsored by State Senator Anthony Cannella. It passed despite opposition from civil liberties advocates including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). According to the Sacramento Bee, the ACLU is opposed to the bill’s overly vague attempt to restrict online activity.

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To provide a 21st Century update to an 1872 law that criminalized impersonating another, Penal Code 528.5 was enacted after the legislature and the governor passed the bill in September 2010. The law will go into effect starting January 2011.

The new law was enacted to punish the act of intentionally impersonating someone else online for the purpose of fraud, intimidation, or to exact some sort of harm upon another. A person would be in violation of this new statute by using the name or personal information of another to open an email account or to create a profile on a social network like Facebook. Among the primary goals of the new law is to deter people from falsely creating accounts to post or send inflammatory photos or comments that would cause harm or embarrassment to the individual impersonated.

Impersonating another individual online is punishable as a misdemeanor offense that may bring with it a sentence of up to 1 year in county jail and a maximum fine of $1,000. The new law also permits victims to pursue civil claims against the impersonator for monetary relief.

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With the versatility and common usage of computers, California has enacted laws to punish crimes associated with the Internet and computers. Internet crime, or cybercrime, is very broad and can include offenses ranging from criminal threats, to child molestation, to theft or fraud. Prosecutors and investigators at both the state and federal level work in conjunction in internet crime investigations to prosecute the full gamut of computer crimes. Some common crimes include:

• Child Pornography – Any act of knowingly producing, possessing, or distributing images depicting minors under the age of 18 engaged in sexual activities is illegal in California. See California Penal Code Section 311.1.

• Crimes Against a Child – It is illegal in California for an adult to contact or attempt to contact a minor under the age of 18 on the internet for the purposes of luring them from their home without parental consent to commit lewd acts with the minor for sexual gratification.

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Tips from a Criminal Defense Attorney

It’s a question that you may ask yourself after hearing about men being arrested for having sexual relationships with underage girls that they met online.

In one case, a man in his 50s portrayed himself as being in his early 20s, met a 14 year old girl online and began having an online relationship with her. The girl would perform live sex acts on video for him and he later had sex with the girl. In another case, a man in his 40s met a 16 year old girl online and began an online relationship with her, and eventually set up a meeting to have sex with her. However, when he showed up for the meeting, he was greeted by an undercover cop and later learned that the undercover cop had posed as the 16 year old girl.

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Recently a well known 18 year old actor decided to “get back” at his 16 year old girlfriend by sending naked photos via text message of the minor to several people, an act known as “Sexting”. The 16 year old became upset and told her parents. Her parents told local police.

The 18 year old will likely regret this decision for the remainder of his life. He was arrested by the police and prosecuted for sending child pornography through the internet. He later entered a guilty plea to this charge. The result is he will be required to register as a sex offender as well as face other serious consequences.

It is critical that before you use the internet to send any photographs you realize that if the photographs are of a minor and they are “lewd in nature” you can be facing serious criminal sanctions.

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