As workplaces adopt paperless record retention policies, electronic records are increasingly becoming the norm. These files are held on computer networks, and often only a few trusted employees have access to these records. These employees help companies ensure that their records are maintained in compliance with laws, rules, regulations, or court orders and may relate to sensitive information, such as financial records, employees, and company customers.
Florida criminal law addresses the destruction or hacking of computers, computer systems, computer networks, and electronic devices to help protect companies from the actions of bad actors. The Tampa Bay Times reported on 11/1/2017 that a company’s former employee was arrested for allegedly destroying his former employer’s computer data after he was fired. The alleged costs to the company were substantial.
Florida Statutes Section 815.06 criminalizes offenses against users of computers, computer systems, computer networks, and electronic devices. The various crimes range from a first-degree misdemeanor to first-degree felonies. An example of a third-degree felony under this statute is destroying a computer network or electronic device with the specific intent to do so. An example of a first-degree felony under this statute is to disrupt a computer network associated with medical equipment or the direct administration of medical care.
The news report specified that the accused allegedly cost his former employer $277,000 in lost profits and data recovery expenses. This information suggests the availability of the second-degree felony charge of knowingly damaging a computer network when the damage or loss is at least $5,000 (Section 815.06(b)(1)).
This is not the first time that an offense against a computer network and unauthorized access has made the news. In 2015, an eighth-grader was arrested by the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office for hacking into the school network without permission. The student then changed the background image on a teacher’s computer.
As more business is conducted online, the laws criminalizing what one might do with information stored on a computer or a computer network will likely continue to evolve. As the two reports above indicate, Florida law enforcement are already seeking to prosecute individuals for computer-related crimes, ranging from misdemeanors to first-degree felonies.
In the Tampa Bay area, if you have been questioned about any type of impropriety related to your employment or financial activities, you should immediately call the offices of Hanlon Law. White collar cases and computer crimes often necessitate a lengthy investigation. It is important to have the advice and counsel of an experienced white collar crime attorney, such as Will Hanlon at Hanlon Law. Call us as soon as possible or reach out to us via our online form.
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Photo Credit: TheDigitalArtist, [CC0 License], via Pixabay