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Unauthorized user altered DEW homepage

The website of the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce was temporarily shut down after someone altered the homepage with their own customized message. This was just one of about a dozen similar internet crimes that took place nationwide.

The SCDEW spokesperson compared the alterations to graffiti, and she insisted that no actual "hacking" had happened.

However, it seems likely that defacing a government website would likely fall under state and federal anti-hacking statutes. The South Carolina Computer Crime Act and the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse act similarly define hacking, in short, as unauthorized access or use of a computer network.

Common sense says that instances of misusing of a computer network can vary in seriousness. Anti-hacking laws, though, have been criticized by many as too harsh and over-inclusive, thus failing to adequately recognize the fact that computer crimes come in different shapes and sizes.

Cybercrime can result in serious charges, and penalties for hacking are severe. When the hacker benefits more than $10,000 or causes more than $10,000 in losses, either directly or indirectly, a first degree felony has occurred. This means that, depending on how the amount of damage is calculated, a first time offense can bring up to five years in prison and a $50,000 fine. Indirect damages could conceivably include things such as repair costs, cost of notifying customers that their data may be compromised and so forth.

Some of SCDEW's resistance to labeling this as a hacking incident likely arises from the spate of recent data breaches in South Carolina, including an attack on the Revenue Department, where hackers stole information for 3.8 million taxpayers. Notifying the taxpayers alone is expected to cost over $1 million. A separate hacker attack also compromised student and employee information at the University of South Carolina this past summer.

Officials say that whoever altered the SCDEW site did not steal any personal information.

Source: WSPA CBS 7, "Spokesperson: SCDEW looking into website "defacement," Dec. 24, 2012

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