Computer hacking is defined as any act of accessing a computer or computer network without the owner's permission. In some cases, hacking requires breaching firewalls or password protections to gain access. In other cases, an individual may hack into a computer that has few or no defenses. Even if there are no defenses to "break" through, simply gaining access to a computer and its information qualifies as criminal computer hacking. The Intent to Hack To be convicted of computer hacking, it must be proven that the defendant knowingly gained access to a computer with the intent of breaching without permission. Sometimes individuals, particularly young computer-savvy teenagers, break in to a computer or network just to prove that they can. They may brag about their accomplishment afterward, using the stunt to flaunt their computer abilities. Even though there may not have been an intent to steal or defraud from the hacked system, the defendant can still be criminally charged. Criminal Charges When an individual is arrested in Florida for hacking, he or she will be charged with a felony. If the defendant accessed a computer system without authorization but did not intend to steal or defraud, he or she will be charged with a third degree felony. If, however, the hacker broke into the system and planned to defraud the owner of money or information, he or she will be charged with a second degree felony. Past computer hacking offenses have included attempts to steal credit card information, social security numbers, or sensitive company or government information. Penalties for Hacking Computer hacking is considered a major threat to company integrity, government confidentiality, and personal security. It is therefore prosecuted aggressively in a court of law. Under Florida law, a third degree felony for hacking can result in a maximum 5 year prison sentence and up to $5,000 in fines. For a hacking offense that involves theft or fraudulent activity, the defendant could be penalized with up to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Beyond the immediate court ordered penalties, a hacking offense can destroy an individual's personal and professional reputation. He or she may experience trouble applying to colleges, obtaining scholarships, finding a job, or obtaining a loan. Even many years after your conviction, you could still be negatively affected by your felony computer hacking charge.