South Florida computer intrusion involves businesses, unsuspecting consumers

Every day, criminals invade countless homes and business across the country — not by burglary or other unlawful entry, but by computer intrusion. The results of hacking, spyware and other malicious computer spying cost billions of dollars each year in damaged computer equipment, stolen company information and credit card fraud, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

This is the second blog in a four-part series on computer crimes. Last week, our Miami criminal attorneys posted a report on auction fraud in South Florida.

Computer intrusion stems from any number of sources, from hackers seeking attention to corporate espionage and the theft of trade secrets.

Such crimes have been readily apparent in South Florida as far back as 2000, when a 16-year-old computer hacker was sentenced to 6 months in a detention facility, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

“Breaking into someone else’s property, whether it is a robbery or a computer intrusion, is a serious crime,” said then-Attorney General Janet Reno. “This case, which marks the first time a juvenile hacker will serve time in a detention facility, shows that we take computer intrusion seriously and are working with our law enforcement partners to aggressively fight this problem.”

Incredibly, the teen broke into a military computer network used by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, charged by the U.S. Department of Defense with reducing the threat of biological, chemical, conventional and special weapons.

If a kid can break into one of the most secure computer systems in the nation from the comforts of his Miami home, we must assume that few businesses are safe from the threat of hackers or the covert theft of intellectual property.

In fact, statistics show more than half of computer users have been infected by spyware and 4 of 5 believe it poses a threat to online privacy. Spyware is software that covertly downloads onto your computer and tracks your movements across the Internet. Some programs are even able to search your computer for personal information, such as credit card numbers or passwords.

Often, a victim does not even realize they have been victimized until a computer problem, unauthorized credit-card charge or other problem alerts them to the computer intrusion.