Small towns have a lot of work to handle. From supplying licenses and permits to keeping track of local tax information, the electronic flow of information is what keeps the town running smoothly these days.
That’s also what makes small towns such a tempting target for cybercriminals, and recently, the town of Lafayette, Colorado, fell victim.
Lafayette, CO Paid Cyberattackers’ Ransom
Their entire database was encrypted and held hostage. In order to get the information back, the hackers requested that the town pay a ransom. Seeing no other alternative, Lafayette officials agreed to pay it.
Luckily for them, their neighbors stepped up to help prevent this from happening again. The city of Boulder, the county, and the state all sent their cybersecurity officials to help secure the town’s network.
As a result, any future attacks on Lafayette will face the full brunt of Colorado’s cybercrime laws.
How Colorado Defines Cyber Crimes
Generally speaking, cybercrime is any act that harms a computer or results in loss of property and was committed by way of a computer.
Colorado has specific and strict laws regarding cybercrime, which is officially known as “computer crime” in this state. These crimes occur when someone actively uses a computer to cause harm or without authorization.
The cybercrime statute is broad, covering everything from simply using a computer without authorization to using a computer to steal. The full list of cybercrimes in Colorado include:
- Accessing a computer or network to commit theft
- Accessing a computer or network to plan or commit fraud
- Using a computer to perform identity theft
- Using a computer without the owner’s consent
- Damaging any computer or network without consent
- Purposefully transmitting computer viruses or phishing programs
As long as both the victim and the hacker live in the state of Colorado, these crimes fall under the state computer crime statute. However, if someone outside of Colorado is involved, it falls under the federal wire fraud laws, making it a federal offense.
Here’s the thing; Colorado believes it is impossible to commit a cybercrime by accident. However, computer viruses are designed to be stealth. So it’s all too easy for unsuspecting people to pass the virus on to someone else’s computer.
To provide balance, the law sees intent as a key component of a computer crime conviction. Many victims will accidentally spread a virus or invasive program to others before they’re aware of the problem; prosecuting them for an accident is unfair and unjust.
The Penalties for Committing Cyber Crimes
Because of how cybercrime can quickly spread out of control, penalties are adjusted accordingly. Colorado cybercrime penalties are assigned based on the damage or loss the crime caused. In the case of Lafayette, the damages were tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars between the ransom and the lost productivity.
That would make the crime a class 3 felony in Colorado, the highest penalty for computer crimes. A class 3 felony can lead to four years in prison and fines of up to $750,000 depending on the damages. That’s a steep price to pay.
Lesser computer crime penalties include a class 4 felony for damages between $500 and $15,000, or misdemeanor charges for damages less than $500.
Cybercrimes are becoming more common daily. Even something as simple as wiping a friend’s hard drive as a prank may be considered a cybercrime if your friend didn’t consent.
Understanding the laws surrounding computers and crime will help you make sure you don’t fall on the wrong side of the rules…and if you have been accused of committing computer crimes, a qualified Colorado cybercrime attorney can be a huge help in navigating the court system.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012 & 2019” and a “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012-2020 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. Additionally, Expertise names her to its lists of the 25 Best Denver DUI Lawyers and 21 Best Denver Criminal Defense Lawyers, both in 2020. Ms. Diego has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.