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Teenage prank or felony computer crime?

Most people would describe what the Florida middle-school boy did as a prank. However, law enforcement officials have arrested the 14-year-old for unauthorized access to a computer system which is a felony.

What did the eighth-grader who lives southwest of Orlando do? He got into the school computer network and onto a teacher's computer. He then changed the background image on the teacher's computer to show a photo of two men kissing. Though the student had gained access to test questions and other facets of the system, he never viewed or accessed those files, police said.

People often wonder how hackers manage to burrow their way past encrypted security systems and other high-tech protective measures. In this case, the password was the teacher's last name -- the student had watched the teacher type it in.

"Even though some might say this is just a teenage prank, who knows what this teenager might have done," the county sheriff said.

The student agreed to a TV station interview in which he admitted that he and others would log into the school's system to look into classrooms on the school's security cameras. And he also messed with the teacher's computer, of course.

"...I logged into a teacher's computer who I didn't like and tried putting inappropriate pictures onto his computer to annoy him," the 14-year-old said.

It's not a good idea to confess to a crime in a TV interview, even if you think the charge is absurd. Discuss matters first with an attorney who understands the potential implications of those words.

However, the Tampa-area story shows how seriously law enforcement officials can take allegations of computer crimes -- even if the allegation appears to some readers to be a prank gone bad.

For the person charged, finding yourself in the legal system is very serious. At that point, it makes sense to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney who understands the charges you face and will conduct a detailed examination of the evidence. Your attorney will also negotiate with authorities and defend you in court, should your case require it.

Please see the White-Collar Crimes page to learn a bit more about The Law Offices of Mark L. Horowitz and how we put our experience to work in your defense.

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