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Leaving a trail, the digital breadcrumbs of cybercrime

Owing their name to the tale of Hansel and Gretel, digital breadcrumbs function as a navigational aid by tracking the movements of users within web interfaces and programs. These unobtrusive navigational cues allow for faster web browsing and mark a user’s journey throughout the page. However, in cases of cybercrime, digital breadcrumbs leave clues for prosecutors that can serve as evidence against a user.

 

Covering tracks is not foolproof

From simple mouse clicks to Google searches, anything done on the internet leaves a digital trail. All Internet actions tie back to an I.P. address, which serves as a unique identifier for each computer. The connections between I.P. addresses are traceable, even if users take precautions to avoid detection and remain anonymous. Something as simple as a wireless device connecting to a network without the user’s knowledge can expose an individual’s identity and location.

Possible federal charges for cybercrime

Although each case is unique, cybercrime often falls under the umbrella charge of wire fraud and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. This act criminalizes many activities performed after accessing a computer without authorization.

Wire fraud has a purposefully broad definition to encompass a wide array of criminal acts, but key elements must be present. For wire charges to apply, the person must create or participate in a scheme to intentionally defraud another individual out of money or something of value. Also, the fraud must be committed using interstate wire communications. Interstate wire communications include any sort of device that sends and receives communications across state lines. A victim does not need to suffer an actual loss, the attempt to defraud is enough to meet charge requirements.

Evidence obtained

Cybercrime cases tie back to the information stored on a person’s computer or device and what activities the device or computer performed. A key element to a strong defense is determining if law enforcement legally obtained evidence without violating Fourth Amendment rights. Anything obtained in violation of search and seizure rules is inadmissible.

However, bear in mind that federal prosecutors typically build a case for months by utilizing digital and traditional forensics before making an arrest. Working with a strong criminal defense attorney can help resolve the charges against you.

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