Texas law penalizes various “computer crimes”

As technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, Texas laws relating to computer crimes often change to accommodate new elements of criminal behavior. While many state residents understand that identity theft and phishing scams count as computer fraud, there are several other types of activities that are illegal under the computer crimes statute.

The National Conference of State Legislatures indicates that Texas is one of five states with laws that specifically include language relating to computer extorsion programs, such as “ransomware.” The detailed language in the computer crimes law may make it easier for the state to prosecute crimes related to malware or ransomware.

The computer crimes statute also contains language addressing numerous other activities, and it places significant weight on a person’s intent. According to FindLaw, the statute prohibits “hacking” in the form of purposely accessing a computer or network without the owner’s consent. Depending on the intent of the hacker and the victim’s losses, breaching computer security may lead to a misdemeanor or felony charge.

Texas law specifically states that it is illegal to impersonate someone else online with the intent to harm, threaten or defraud someone. For example, an individual cannot send threatening messages on social media using someone else’s persona. This behavior may constitute a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the perpetrator’s intent. Sending a text or online message to a minor under 17 years old with the intent to engage him or her in sexual behavior is also illegal. Soliciting a minor is a felony in Texas. Voting fraud is also a felony; a person may not access a computer system or election machine to tamper with votes. Texas law covers a wide range of computer activities and uses specific language designed to protect people from those who would use a computer to threaten, harm or defraud them.

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