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Journalist's computer prank becomes computer crime

With an increase in high-profile computer crimes, prosecutors, police and politicians in California and nationwide are beginning to take computer crimes much more seriously. Currently, federal prosecutors rely heavily on the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to target most computer and Internet crimes. Enacted in the 1980's, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is used to go after a wide range of computer crimes. Nevertheless, according to some the Act is in long need of some changes.

According to a recent report, federal prosecutors are accusing a journalist of committing Internet crimes against the Tribune Company. The Tribune Company, which also owns a California television station, is the parent company of the Los Angeles Times. The 26-year-old journalist and social media editor charged with the crime allegedly conspired with the infamous hacker group Anonymous to alter a Times news story headline back in late 2010.

The federal indictment accuses the journalist and social media editor of giving Anonymous information required to access the company's computer system. The former Los Angeles Times employee is being charged with transmitting and attempting to transmit information to damage a protected computer and conspiracy to transmit that information. If convicted of the computer crime the man could face up to 25 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

The attitude about the case among the general public appears to be mixed. In the eyes of the journalist's supporter's, the defendant did not hurt anyone he just committed a prank. With increasing concerns about cyber terrorism, however, the U.S. congress is becoming increasingly interested in punishing computer crimes such as hacking harshly. That is also why it is so important for those accused of computer crimes to take these charges seriously.

Fox News, "Indicted journalist's lawyer says prank doesn't merit prison," March 16, 2013

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