Task force seeks to update New York state cyber crime laws

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The proposal addresses much needed updates to New York State's white collar laws.
The proposal addresses much needed updates to New York State's white collar laws.

A proposal released Tuesday addresses much needed updates to New York State's white collar laws (PDF), which have remained mostly unaltered since 1965.

The recommendations will aid in the enforcement of cyber crime, which is defined as any crime in which a computer, smart phone or the internet is used to commit or conceal a crime, according to the proposal released by the New York State White Collar Crime Task Force.

Identity theft was also mentioned as a cyber crime in the one-hundred plus page report, which points to a 2013 study by credit information management company TransUnion that reveals how 19 people fall victim to identity theft every minute. Moreover, recovery costs the average person roughly $500 and 30 hours of time.

With respect to cyber crime, the proposal seeks to expand the definition of “computer material” to help prosecute those who access private emails without authorization, hack webcams for sexual gratification or spying on unwitting victims, and those who access school databases to take disciplinary records of children.

The proposal additionally seeks to upgrade existing computer tampering law, which would put it on par with grand larceny statutes where the crime is based on the harm caused. Recommendations include upgrading "unlawful possession of a skimmer device" to a criminal possession – to reflect the severity of the offense.

Looking to address the realities of identity theft, the report recommends basing the crime on the dollar threshold amounts or the number of victims. It additionally seeks to add identity theft as a premeditated crime, which recognizes a growing trend of organized identity theft crimes.

“In the largest cases prosecuted, hundreds – or even thousands – of individuals have their personal identifying information stolen via computer hacking or other data intrusions,” according to the report, which adds that roughly 37 percent of all felony complaints drafted by the New York County District Attorney's Office in 2012 involve cyber crime or identity theft charges.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance announced the proposal on Tuesday.

“The last time our state legislature took a purposeful look at white collar laws was more than a quarter century ago, before smartphones, the internet, social media, or the explosion of e-commerce,” Vance said in a release. “In particular, New York state law woefully lags behind federal laws and laws in many other states. For example, today, a cyber-swindler who schemes to defraud his victims out of $2,000 or $2 million faces identical punishment.”

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