Computer Crimes

Utah law prohibits a variety of "computer crimes" that destroy or interfere with the normal operation of a computer system. Most computer crimes involve hacking or breaking into computer systems with the intention to alter or modify the existing settings.

When computer hacking is malicious in nature, the attacks can cause serious disruptions to the computer system or network. 

In Utah, computer crimes are sometimes called cybercrimes. Utah law prohibits both unauthorized access and other forms of computer trespass. The laws also prohibit the use of ransomware, denial of service attacks, phishing, and spyware.

Attorneys for Computer Crimes in Salt Lake City, UT

If you were charged with any type of "computer crimes" under U.C.A. § 76-6-703, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Brown, Bradshaw & Moffat, LLP. The cybercrime defense attorneys at Brown, Bradshaw & Moffat, LLP fight accusations involving the unauthorized access of a computer network or system.

Crimes involving computer hacking or interfering with critical infrastructures in Utah are found in § 76-6-702 - 76-6-705. In some cases, computer crimes are also prosecuted under Utah's theft statutes.

Many of these investigations involve the Cyber Crimes Unit (CCU) of the Utah Department of Public Safety. Law enforcement officers with the CCU investigate the criminal use of computers involving internet fraud, the theft of data, unauthorized access, and network intrusions.

The attorneys at Brown, Bradshaw & Moffat, LLP are experienced in representing clients charged with a wide variety of white collar crimes in the State of Utah at both the state and federal level. Call (801) 532-5297 today.

Call (801) 532-5297 today.


Unauthorized Access to Computer Technology

Under § 76-6-703(1)(a), it is unlawful for a person to access or attempt to access computer technology, without authorization, or in excess of the person's authorization, if the access or attempt to access results in:

  • the alteration, damage, destruction, copying, transmission, discovery, or disclosure of computer technology;
  • interference with or interruption of:
    • the lawful use of computer technology; or
    • the transmission of data;
  • physical damage to or loss of real, personal, or commercial property;
  • audio, video, or other surveillance of another person; or
  • economic loss to any person or entity.

Taking Unauthorized Action Used Computer Technology

Under § 76-6-703(1)(b), it is unlawful to take unauthorized or unlawful action after accessing computer technology that the person is authorized to access, knowingly take or attempt to take that results in:

  • the alteration, damage, destruction, copying, transmission, discovery, or disclosure of computer technology;
  • interference with or interruption of:
    • the lawful use of computer technology; or
    • the transmission of data;
  • physical damage to or loss of real, personal, or commercial property;
  • audio, video, or other surveillance of another person; or
  • economic loss to any person or entity.

Engaging in a Denial of Service Attack

Under § 76-6-703(1)(c), it is unlawful to knowingly engage in a denial of service attack. A denial-of-service attack involves flooding the bandwidth or resources of a targeted system or servers with traffic. The unusual flood of traffic then prevents legitimate users from accessing information or services.

The statutory scheme also prohibits the distributed denial of service attack which occurs when the attacker compromises and takes control of multiple computers with security flaws and uses them to launch the denial-of-service attack.


Penalties for Computer Crimes in Utah

A violation of U.C.A. § 76-6-703 is charged as a class B misdemeanor when:

  • the economic loss or other loss or damage caused or the value of the money, property, or benefit obtained or sought to be obtained is less than $500; or
  • the information obtained is not confidential.

The penalties are enhanced depending on whether the economic loss or other loss or damage caused or the value of the money, property, or benefit obtained or sought to be obtained is or exceeds a certain amount including: 

  • a class A misdemeanor - $500 but is less than $1,500;
  • a third degree felony - $1,500 but is less than $5,000; or
  • a second degree felony - $5,000 or more. 

The penalties for these computer crimes are charged as a third degree felony when:

  • the property or benefit obtained or sought to be obtained is a license or entitlement;
  • the damage is to the license or entitlement of another person;
  • the information obtained is confidential or identifying information; or
  • in gaining access the person breaches or breaks through a security system.

Under U.C.A. § 76-6-703(3)(a), a person who intentionally or knowingly and without authorization gains or attempts to gain access to a computer, computer network, computer property, or computer system under circumstances not otherwise constituting an offense under this section is guilty of a class B misdemeanor.


Electronic Communication Harassment in Utah

Under U.C.A. § 76-6-703(4)(a), if a person who, with intent that electronic communication harassment occur, discloses or disseminates another person's identifying information with the expectation that others will further disseminate or use the person's identifying information is subject to the penalties outlined in Subsection (4)(b).

Alternatively, if the disclosure or dissemination of another person's identifying information results in electronic communication harassment, as described in Section 76-9-201, of the person whose identifying information is disseminated, the person disseminating the information is guilty of:

  • a class B misdemeanor if the person whose identifying information is disseminated is an adult; or
  • a class A misdemeanor if the person whose identifying information is disseminated is a minor;
  • a second offense under Subsection (4)(b)(i) is a class A misdemeanor;
  • a second offense under Subsection (4)(b)(ii), and a third or subsequent offense under this Subsection (4)(b), is a third degree felony.

Penalties for Using a Computer for False Pretenses

Under U.C.A. § 76-6-703(5), a person who uses or knowingly allows another person to use any computer, computer network, computer property, or computer system, program, or software to devise or execute any artifice or scheme to defraud or to obtain money, property, services, or other things of value by false pretenses, promises, or representations, is guilty of an offense based on the value of the money, property, services, or things of value, in the degree set forth in Subsection 76-10-1801(1).


Penalties for Using a Computer to Interfere with Critical Infrastructures

Under U.C.A. § 76-6-703(6), a person is guilty of a third-degree felony if the person intentionally or knowingly, and without lawful authorization, interferes with or interrupts critical infrastructure.


Defenses for Computer Crimes in Utah

Under U.C.A. § 76-6-703(3)(b), a retailer that uses an electronic product identification or tracking system, or other technology, to identify, track, or price goods is not guilty of a violation of Subsection (3)(a) if the equipment designed to read the electronic product identification or tracking system data and used by the retailer to identify, track, or price goods is located within the retailer's location.

Under U.C.A. § 76-6-703(7), it is an affirmative defense to Subsection (1), (2), or (3) that a person obtained access or attempted to obtain access:

  • in response to, and for the purpose of protecting against or investigating, a prior attempted or successful breach of security of computer technology whose security the person is authorized or entitled to protect, and the access attempted or obtained was no greater than reasonably necessary for that purpose; or
  • pursuant to a search warrant or a lawful exception to the requirement to obtain a search warrant.

Under U.C.A. § 76-6-703(8)(a), an interactive computer service is not guilty of violating this section if a person violates this section using the interactive computer service and the interactive computer service did not knowingly assist the person to commit the violation.

Under U.C.A. § 76-6-703(8)(b), a service provider is not guilty of violating this section for:

  • action taken in relation to a customer of the service provider, for a legitimate business purpose, to install software on, monitor, or interact with the customer's Internet or other network connection, service, or computer for network or computer security purposes, authentication, diagnostics, technical support, maintenance, repair, network management, updates of computer software or system firmware, or remote system management; or
  • actiontaken, including scanning and removing computer software, to detect or prevent the following:
    • unauthorized or fraudulent use of a network, service, or computer software;
    • illegal activity; or
    • infringement of intellectual property rights.

U.C.A. § 76-6-703(9) provides that Subsections (4)(a) and (b) do not apply to a person who provides information in conjunction with a report under Title 34A, Chapter 6, Utah Occupational Safety and Health Act, or Title 67, Chapter 21, Utah Protection of Public Employees Act.

Under U.C.A. § 76-6-703(10), this section may not apply to, and nothing in this section may be construed to impose liability or culpability on, an interactive computer service for content provided by another person in accordance with 47 U.S.C.A. Sec. 230. 

Under U.C.A. § 76-6-703(11), this section does not affect, limit, or apply to any activity or conduct that is protected by the constitution or laws of this state or by the constitution or laws of the United States.


This article was last updated on Friday, March 16, 2018.

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