The state of Texas wards off tens of thousands of cyberattacks each day. Where are they coming from? Who are they targeting?
Many automated computers and hackers attempt to steal confidential data from Texas citizens, companies, and government databases. Since 2013, the state has spent $277 million to fix data breaches, which places Texas in the top five states in the nation of most cybercrime effects.
Last year, over 2.5 million records were taken in 105 Texas breaches, which is five times more than the previous year. The city of Fort Worth alone endures over 15,000 attempted hacks every day.
The Texas Attorney General’s Office is cracking down on cases where breaches are used to swipe information for financial and political purposes, mindful that Texas has become a prime target for hackers due to its large, thriving economy.
Since so many attacks occur at different levels, the Texas Cybercrimes Act has been proposed.
Below is a synopsis of this act and the associated penalties, along with other Texas computer crime laws.
What You Need to Know about the Texas Cybercrimes Act
The new law, which became effective last September, promotes training and planning systems to eradicate cybercrimes. The law allows for greater scrutiny of voter lists and voting machines. It also demands more frequent reviews of security plans among state agencies and creates state committees to conduct hearings.
However, the law falls short in that it does not cover school districts, cities, and counties.
House Bill 9, known as the Texas Cybercrimes Act, adds additional offenses to the state’s laws.
The introduced version of the bill adds intentional deceptive data alteration, ransomware, and denial of service attacks as prosecutable crimes. A conviction could result in punishments as severe as life in prison.
Electronic access interference will be charged as a third degree felony. The charge applies when an individual intentionally suspends or interrupts network or computer access without the owner’s consent. An applicable defense exists for law enforcement officers.
In the bill, ransomware is defined as a digital restriction on computer access with intent to extort money from the computer user. The offense that results is called Electronic Data Tampering. The offense is punishable based on the amount of money that was extorted.
On the low end, a Class A misdemeanor charge will apply for up to $100. On the high end, a first degree felony charge will apply in cases involving $300,000 and up. If the victim was restricted from accessing privileged information during an act which involved up to $2,500, the minimum punishment is a state jail felony.
Additional Texas Computer Crime Laws
Other computer crimes already exist under Chapter 33 of the Texas Penal Code. These crimes include the following:
- Breach of computer security
- Online solicitation of a minor
- Electronic access interference
- Electronic data tampering
- Unlawful decryption
- Tampering with electronic voting machines
- Online impersonation
These crimes are punishable by varying degrees, according to the severity of the crime. Many are felonies that can come with long prison sentences if convictions occur.
If You are Facing Texas Cybercrime Charges
Cybercrimes in Texas are complex by their very nature. If you are facing cybercrimes charges, you need a knowledgeable and aggressive criminal defense lawyer to fight your charges and form a strong defense.
Our team will defend individuals who have been accused of hacking, tampering with data, blocking access, using ransomware, and other cybercrimes.
Texas law demands harsher penalties for cybercrime reoffenders. As new laws go into effect and state legislators crack down on cybercrimes, you need an advocate who will fight to protect your rights.
Some possible defense include:
- Consent given. You cannot be charged with committing cybercrimes if the alleged victim gave consent. We will examine all the details of your case to determine if consent was authorized, which means the charges against you can be dropped.
- Lack of knowledge. Another defense to cybercrime charges is lack of knowledge. If you didn’t know that what you were doing was fraudulent or unlawful, your attorney may be able to use this defense to get your charges reduced or dismissed.
- In rare cases, the defense of coercion may be used. If you were forced to commit a cybercrime because you or a loved one were threatened with harm, you may not have to face charges for the crime.
We can help fight your charges by evaluating time stamps, locations where transactions were made, and who authorized charges or changes. Our team of legal professionals will conduct our own thorough investigation to help you fight against your charges. Reach out today for a free case review.