Teenagers and computer hacking are almost synonymous; parents in Ohio or West Virginia towns and cities such as Bellaire, Martins Ferry, Moundsville, Saint Clairsville or Akron may view the activity as harmless fun. That may be true, but teens are often unaware that hacking into their friends’ computers to prank them is illegal. States and federal law enforcement departments are aggressively pursuing illegal computer access, from simple teen hacking to high-stakes white-collar crime.
Just as milder drugs are sometimes a gateway to powerfully addictive substance abuse, teen computer hacking can provide an entry port to cybercrime. No county is immune, whether Jefferson, Belmont, Brooke, Marshall, or Ohio. Teen hacking is a growing problem across the country.
The age of innocent hacking
During the early years of computer mischief, hackers gained access to Ohio State University computers in Columbus, Ohio. They uncovered 760,000 identification records containing Social Security numbers, addresses and other personal information about employees, students and admission applicants. The university hired a computer forensics team, which traced the hackers’ intent to aggregate the records into a massive data-bomb prank to freeze up online business computers.
The era of cybercrime
Today’s cyber hackers harvest Social Security numbers, names, addresses and bank account access codes to sell online across international boundaries, an effective way to cloak criminal action. The gateway from hacking fun can unexpectedly lead to full-on cybercrime—with the accompanying risk of major state and federal prosecution.
Authorities cast a wide net because today’s teens can make tomorrow’s headline news for breaking into U.S. military computers, major banks and companies, even hacking into NASA software that controls the International Space Station. Teenage hackers performed all these major intrusions; they reaped adult-sized consequences by violating United States cybercrime laws. One precocious young teen even wormed his way into a North Korean nuclear power control center, nearly causing an international conflagration with our country.
Defending teens in trouble
Teen hackers land in shark-infested waters before they realize it. They one-up each other for bragging rights, targeting bigger, more impressive institutions each time. They do not need to steal data—the act of intrusion alone is enough to trigger federal charges. As the lines become blurred between pranks and felonies, innocent kids get caught up in the excitement and discover they are in trouble. When caught, teens can face federal criminal penalties, fines and even jail time, which can ruin their lives in more ways than they can imagine. When authorities inform parents their teen is a computer hacker, those parents need immediate help from criminal defense professionals to protect their children. An experienced defender can show the state or federal court that teens still possess unformed judgment skills, easily engaging in popular activities they do not fully understand.