Since computers have become a common part of everyday life, people have had to be cautious about malware and viruses. Malware and viruses have the potential to ruin a computer, spread around a network, steal personal information and more.
If you intentionally send a virus to another person, it is possible that you could face criminal charges under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, or CFAA. This act makes it illegal to make changes to another person’s data without their permission, which is exactly what a virus or malware will do.
The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act protects computers against damage from outside users
Through the CFAA, it is possible to prosecute someone who transmits a virus, worm or other malicious software or data. These activities are common with hacking, which is also illegal under this act.
That being said, not everyone who sends a virus is going to be prosecuted. Why not? It’s hard to prove where a virus originated, and it can be tricky to prove that someone intentionally sent a virus to someone else.
When could you face penalties for sending a computer virus?
You may face penalties if you knowingly send a virus to another person with the intention of damaging their system or stealing information from it. For example, if you create and send a keylogging virus, it may transmit back passwords or other information to you. That is potentially moving into identity theft territory, which could add additional charges if you are caught.
However, if you receive an interesting email with an attachment, open that attachment and have your own computer infected unknowingly, you might send on that information to someone else. Over time, the virus will spread, but you may never have intended to do that. In that case, it would be unlikely that you would face charges or prosecution, because you didn’t know that you were transmitting a virus to another person and you were not benefitting from doing so.
These are a few things to think about in regards to computer crimes. Be cautious with malware or viruses, and make sure you do not send them intentionally.