Activists who wanted to make a point or have an effect on society used to have to take to the streets in public protest or haunt congressional floors -- now they often sit behind computers and look for ways to stop corruption by exposing the secrets hidden inside personal, corporate and governmental computers.
For example, the group of cyber activists known collectively as "Anonymous" has exposed thousands of corporate and government documents that never would have seen the light of day otherwise. This type of activity has been called "hactivism," and it's illegal. Anytime you gain unauthorized access to someone else's computer it's a crime, even if you think that you are doing the right thing.
Because of the various federal and state laws designed to curb this type of activity, hactivists can end up being sentenced to significant jail time, often in federal prison.
For example, a Kentucky hactivist who broke into a website dedicated to the football team in Steubenville, Ohio, in order to help propel a rape that was being covered up into national news.
The Kentucky man and another conspirator managed to get into the fan page and the owner's email, then leaked private correspondence about the rape. He eventually plead guilty to conspiracy to commit computer hacking and lying to a federal agent during an investigation. His penalty? Two years in federal prison.
It could have been far worse. Had he gone to trial, prosecutors would likely have tried to convict him on all four felony counts they brought in the original indictment and sought a much longer sentence.
If you think that you're being investigated for any sort of computer crime, even if it was only a one-time event, seek help from a criminal defense attorney right away. Although "white collar" crimes like computer hacking seem like they should be less serious than some other types of crime, they're often treated very harshly. A good defense is one that starts early.
For more information on how our firm approaches white collar crimes, please visit our page.