The municipal government of the city of Atlanta has been hindered by what the New York Times is referring to as “one of the most sustained and consequential cyberattacks ever mounted against a major American city.” Georgians have not been able to pay citations, utility bills, or make reports on the city website since last Thursday morning.
The reality is that our governments - on local, state, and national levels - face an entirely new set of vulnerabilities the more we rely on computer networks and technologies for daily operations. What Atlanta is dealing with currently is referred to as a ransomware attack. This particular type of cyberattack is a software that blocks access to data until a ransom is paid to actually unblock it.
Cyberattacks on governments are becoming increasingly frequent. Research says that 1/4 of local governments in the U.S. reported experiencing cyber attacks at least once an hour. Of those cyberattacks that ransomware attacks on local governments in the U.S. account for 1/3 of the cyber attacks. A cyberattack on Dallas in 2017 resulted in hackers being able to set off tornado sirens for no apparent reason in the middle of the night.
Dell SecureWorks has been helping the city of Atlanta to identify and respond to the crew of hackers allegedly behind the ransomware attack. Apparently, the group responsible has been reported to extort more than $1 million from over 30 organizations this year. However, at the moment, everyone is declining to comment.
Computer Security Crimes in Georgia have greatly increased in the last ten years and as a result, Georgia law has started to catch up. The offenses are extremely technical and are best explained and defended by a top-rated Georgia Criminal Defense Lawyer. It could be the difference between an acquittal and a conviction.
Here are a few different offenses outlined and defined by the Georgia Code.
Email Virus Distribution, Denial of Service Attacks, and Other Prohibited Conduct in Georgia - O.C.G.A. §16-9-153: It shall be illegal for a person or entity that is not an authorized use of a computer in this state to knowingly, willfully, or with conscious indifference or disregard cause computer software to be copied onto such computer and use the software to do any of the following things:
- Take control of the consumer's or business entity's computer;
- Modify any of the user's security or privacy settings related to the computer's access to, or use of, the Internet; or
- Prevent, without the authorization of an authorized user, an authorized user's reasonable efforts to block the installation of, or to disable software.
Inducement to Install, Copy, or Execute Software Through Misrepresentation in Georgia - O.C.G.A. §16-9-154: It shall be illegal for a person or entity that is not an authorized user of a computer in this state to do any of the following with regard to such computer:
- Induce an authorized user to install a software component onto the computer by intentionally misrepresenting that installing software is necessary for security or privacy reasons or in order to open, view, or play a particular type of content;
- Deceptively causing the copying and execution on the computer of a computer software component with the intent of causing an authorized user to use the component in a way that violates any other provision of this Code section;
- Prevent reasonable efforts to block the installation, execution, or disabling of a covered file-sharing program on the computer; or
- Install, offer to install, or make available for installation, reinstallation, or update a covered file-sharing program on the computer without first providing clear and conspicuous notice to the authorized user of the computer showing which files on that computer will be made available to the public, obtaining consent from the authorized user to install the covered file-sharing program, and requiring affirmative steps by the authorized user to activate any feature on the covered file-sharing program that will make files on that computer available to the public. Such notice shall be redisplayed each time a change occurs in the list of files that will be made available to the public.
Use of Spyware, Browsers, Hijacks, or Other Prohibited Software in Georgia - O.C.G.A. §16-5-152: It is illegal for any person or entity that is not an authorized user of a computer to knowingly, willfully, or with conscious indifference or disregard cause computer software to be copied onto such computer and use the software to do any of the following:
- Modify, through intentionally deceptive means, settings related to the computer's access to, or use of, the Internet;
- Collect, through intentionally deceptive means, personally identifiable material including a keystroke logging function or websites visited by an authorized user;
- Prevent an authorized user's reasonable efforts to block the installation of, or to disable software by causing software that the authorized user has properly removed or disabled to automatically reinstall or reactive on the computer without the authorized of an authorized user;
- Intentionally misrepresent that software will be uninstalled or disabled by an authorized user's action, with knowledge that the software will not be uninstalled or disabled; or
- Through intentionally deception means, remove, disable, or render inoperative security, anti-spyware, or antivirus software installed on the computer.
As you can see from some of the statutes above, cybercrime as outlined by Georgia law is overwhelming and difficult to comprehend. If you have been charged with a Computer Security Crime in Georgia, a Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney will be able to walk you through just exactly what offense you are being accused of committing and apply the most applicable Georgia Criminal Defenses to your particular case. Contact us today.