Internet Law

Family Business and Keeping an Eye on Cyber Crime

When you decide to take your business online, you'll be looking at usual business decisions and planning from a new angle. This includes protecting your business from crime. Some forms of cyber crime are familiar, but it's also wise to know about other forms of cyber crime and how they could harm your business.

Beyond the Usual Suspects

You can probably name common cyber crime types: Identity theft, cyber stalking and pornography via the web. Sometimes software or copyright violations are crimes.

Unfortunately, new ways of doing business online can also mean new ways to commit crime. Reliance on technology can also bring new criminal opportunities not seen in the past.

New Crimes for New Times

Federal and state governments have responded to new cyber crimes with new criminal laws. Cyber fraud crimes are good examples. State laws vary, but also address offenses where technology is used to commit crime, or technology is the target, such as damaging your computer system.

Internet business also means you're not local anymore. It's possible a federal law or another state's law could matter because cyber crime can go anywhere.

Security and avoiding crime is different than using locks and alarms for your bricks and mortar operations. Think of crime in a new way, and you can plan, prevent and respond to criminal risks and threats, and act if you're victim.

Here are some new crime types to think about:

Online Gambling, Gun and Liquor Sales

Gambling, gun and liquor sales are heavily regulated business types. When you're doing business online, added planning and procedures are needed. State laws vary, and you could be considered to be doing business in another area. For example, while it might be legal to sell wine online and ship it within your state, you'll need to know whether you can do business with customers in other places without breaking the law.

Spam Laws

The CAN-SPAM Act is a federal law setting the rules for business use of e-mail. States also have similar laws. Use e-mail in the wrong way, and you could run afoul of the law. The law covers things such as how e-mails are presented, informing recipients how to opt-out of your mail lists, identifying your business messages as advertisements.

If you don't follow the CAN-SPAM Act, violations could cost you: Criminal fines and even prison are possible.

Unauthorized Entry

When someone breaks into a shop, it's easy to spot as a crime. Unauthorized entry is a crime in the cyber world, too. Many people probably think of the internet in a intangible way. Does a visit to an online business equal a visit to a physical location? Maybe - criminal laws cover unauthorized entry. An illegal entry to steal data, like credit card account numbers, or maybe cyber spying on a competitor are good examples.

Malicious Access - Worms and Breaches

Accessing computer systems is another source for crime. It may be more subtle than hacking into a system and stealing information. It can be a crime to intentionally access computer systems and do harm once you're in. Worms are malicious computer viruses designed to destroy or damage computers and data. Design and spread a worm, and it may be a crime.

A seemingly random act with the purpose to access a computer system can be illegal, too. Random acts, such as random dialing to find modem access, can be a crime.

Self-Help: Business Tactic or Cyber Crime?

It may be a crime to design a computer program to stop running or self-destruct at a certain time. Writing a program in this way could be a form self-help to ensure payment for software or services, or to limit use of software to a certain period of time, for example.

Also, disabling or destroying software or equipment may be criminal, especially when done maliciously. The Wisconsin Computer Crimes Act and Virginia and Maryland laws may include such incidents.

Have an Action Plan

Hopefully your knowledge of cyber crime will help you avoid being a victim. Take another step by having an action plan to stop crimes from happening in the first place, and outline what you'll do business wise after your business is victimized.

Of course, the first, best thing to do after a cyber crime is to call your local law enforcement officials. They can put you into contact with other agencies and officials to handle the problem.

The internet can be a great place to do business. Millions of potential customers are only a click away. Doing everything you can to make sure your business is secure and operating on the up-and-up are the first steps on the road to success.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • If my business is a victim of cyber crime, could customers or business contacts bring a civil lawsuit if they think I was at fault in some way?
  • What kind of insurance coverage do I need to protect against cyber crime?
  • Are business vendors liable to me if their product or service was vulnerable to cyber crime and I suffered a loss?
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