Cybercrimes in college: The risks and academic fallout

On Behalf of | Jan 29, 2024 | College Crime, Criminal Defense

As the digital landscape expands, so does the incidence of cybercrimes. Any industry that relies on computers to get work done is vulnerable to exploitation from hackers and other cyber bad actors. This includes the education sector, where faculty and students rely heavily on computers.

Cybercrimes may not involve physical violence, but they’re still criminal offenses that carry severe penalties. Students must be vigilant and informed about the risks associated with these crimes and the consequences they can face if implicated.

Common cybercrimes in colleges and universities

At its core, cybercrime involves illegal activity where a computer or network is the tool, target, or place of criminal activity. Students might encounter or inadvertently partake in the following cybercrimes:

  • Computer trespass
  • Cyber harassment
  • Hacking
  • Identity theft
  • Phishing schemes

Each of these offenses carries criminal penalties that can be harsh for college students.

The repercussions of college cybercrimes

The penalties for these cybercrimes depend on the severity of the offense and the damage caused. The penalties are:

  • Cyber harassment: Pennsylvania law prohibits any and all forms of harassment. This includes cyber harassment where the offender communicates repeatedly in an anonymous manner, such as on social media. This is a misdemeanor of the third degree, carrying up to 90 days of imprisonment and $5,000 in fines.
  • Hacking and phishing: Both are considered an unlawful use of a computer; they are third-degree felonies punishable by up to seven years of prison and $15,000 in fines.
  • Identity theft: The penalty for this offense is dependent on the total value involved. For identity theft involving less than $2,000, the offense is a misdemeanor of the first degree, which is punishable by up to five years of prison and $10,000 in fines.
  • Computer trespass: Computer trespass is a felony of the third degree. The offenses are punishable by up to seven years of prison and $15,000 in fines.

On top of these penalties, students convicted of these cybercrimes may face disciplinary action from their respective colleges. This is usually in the form of suspension or expulsion. A student’s criminal record could also hinder their graduate school admissions and employment prospects.

Cybercrimes carry substantial legal and academic penalties that can derail a student’s educational and professional objectives. If you or another college student you know faces charges for cybercrimes, consider speaking with a legal professional. An attorney can help you build your case and protect your rights in court.

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