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As the Internet continues to be an important part of our lives, it also becomes a more dangerous avenue for cybercrime. The risk increases as the massive online community’s use of the Internet becomes more rampant. And despite the public being aware of cybersecurity issues, anonymous online criminals are able find more victims and creative ways to commit Internet fraud with the use of Internet services or software programs with web access.

Cybercrime has become a leading concern in the legal community as criminals continue to spread troublesome viruses, access private business/financial information, commit cyber espionage, spread different variations of malware, execute property and identity theft, spread malicious online content, and invade computer system processes that may threaten or cause danger to the government or its citizens.

At the same time, the legal community continues to devise laws that victims can consult to protect their privacy and rights. These laws, many of which appear under Title 18 of the U.S. criminal code, were passed to strongly call out the actions of cyber criminals and to cultivate a healthier, fraud-free online environment. They aim to control and prevent such inconveniences, damage and loss as well as punish those who are responsible for the crimes committed.

18 U.S. Code § 2511 – Interception and disclosure of wire, oral, or electronic communications prohibited

The Title 18 U.S. Code § 2511 law protects wire, oral and electronic communication interception of cyber criminals. Someone who intentionally discloses or endeavors to disclose information obtained through interception via wire, oral, or electronic communication will be punished by the law with a fine and/or jail time of up to five years.

18 U.S. Code § 2701 – Unlawful access to stored communications

Perpetrators who, without any authorization, intentionally access a facility that offers electronic communication services or get past the normal authorization process to access the facility just to obtain, alter, or prevent authorized access to a wired or electronic communication will be punished with a fine and/or detained for not more than five years. Subsequent offenses will extend the imprisonment up to 10 years.

18 U.S. Code § 1030 – Fraud and related activity in connection with computers

The provision punishes those who access a computer without authorization or in excess of authorization—particularly by means of obtaining private and sensitive information from U.S. government departments or agencies’ computers, including those that have been granted protection against unauthorized disclosure for national security purposes, foreign relations, and such—with the intention of fraud, extortion, causing damage or loss, or obtaining anything of value. Punishments could go as far as charging the criminal with a fine and/or imprisoning them anywhere between under a year up to 20 years.

18 U.S. Code § 1029 – Fraud and related activity in connection with access devices

Acts of fraud and related activity with access devices is condemned by the legal system. People who intentionally defraud, use, or counterfeit the access device, or at least possess any device used to counterfeit communication connections, will be penalized and/or sent behind bars anywhere between not more than 10 years and up to 20 years.

18 U.S. Code § 1028 – Fraud and related activity in connection with identification documents, authentication features, and information

People who unlawfully authorize, transfer, possess, produce, or traffic any identification document with the intent to commit or aid in the unlawful use of personal information will be fined and/or imprisoned between not more than 5 years up to 20 years. The provision emphasizes that any form of identity theft and misrepresentation will be deemed punishable by law.

18 U.S. Code § 1037 – Fraud and related activity in connection with electronic mail

The Title 18 U.S. Code § 1037 applies to anyone involved in interstate or foreign commerce who accesses a secured computer without authorization, retransmits email messages to deceive recipients, falsifies the identity of an actual registrant, or falsely represents oneself as a registrant or legitimate successor. Perpetrators and accessories to the crime will be punished with a fine and/or sent to jail for not more than 3 years up to 5 years.

18 U.S. Code § 2251 – Sexual exploitation of children

Among the punishable criminal acts under this provision are the alteration of innocent photos of children with the intent of making them appear to be engaging in sexual conduct to cater to pedophiles and child molesters’ desires, the alteration of children’s photos and videos to make it impossible to identify them, inclusion of a recognizable minor’s image or photo in the creation or distribution of child pornography material, and the online distribution of these images. Anybody who violates these laws will be fined and sent to jail anywhere between less than 15 years and up to 30 years.

18 U.S. Code § 2252 – Certain activities relating to material involving the sexual exploitation of minors

USC 2252 further stresses the gravity of supporting the exploitation of minors. The provision covers sending unsuspecting minors any visual depictions of other children engaging in sexual conduct via the Internet to purposely persuade the victim to engage in illegal activities as well as intentionally transporting, shipping, distributing, or even redistributing visual depictions of minors engaging in sexual conduct, including via email. Guilty parties will be fined and/or imprisoned not less than 5 years up to 20 years, at the least.

18 U.S. Code § 2252B – Misleading domain names on the Internet

Criminals targeted by this provision are those responsible for knowingly using an Internet domain name that intentionally deceives anybody, including minors, into viewing anything that includes sex, nudity, and other inappropriate and harmful material that may appeal to a lustful interest. Perpetrators will be fined and/or held behind bars for not more than 2 years and up to 10 years.


As the above laws demonstrate, the U.S. criminal code is capable of prosecuting digital fraudsters. But it can’t do anything if a victim remains silent. If you’ve been the victim of identity theft or another type of crime online, file a report with your local authorities, so that law enforcement can work to punish those responsible.


About the Author: Valeri Hirst is a prolific freelance journalist and writer with a passion for learning new things and educating others. She is a regular contributor for various blogs and websites in different niches, although she mostly writes about tech, travel, and eclectic lifestyle topics.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this guest author article are solely those of the contributor, and do not necessarily reflect those of Tripwire, Inc.