Updated: Dec 17, 2019
Widespread hacking cases make the headlines regularly these days, whether the victims are celebrities or everyday internet users. Have you ever wondered what happens to someone who is caught hacking? Do you know what to do if your data has been compromised and how you can help prevent this from occurring in the first place?
What the Law Says Most internet-related criminal activity is prosecuted under federal law. Examples include using someone else's computer to access personal information with the intent to use it fraudulently as well as installing spyware without consent. The U.S. Wiretap Act outlaws spying on someone else's communications without their permission, placing many existing apps and services (and the people who use them) in murky legal territory.
Specifically, If your phone or computer was hacked by an ex-partner or someone else who then distributed private photos of you without your consent, so-called "revenge porn" laws might apply to your case. As of October 2017, these laws are now in place in 38 states and Washington, D.C.
How to Tell If You've Been Hacked If you're worried that someone has gained access to your phone without your permission, look for apps you don't recognize, more internet traffic on your bill or a shorter-than-usual battery life. Suspicious phishing text messages asking for passwords or asking you to click unfamiliar links are also signs of possible hacking.
What to Do Next If you suspect that any of your electronic devices have been hacked, first report the crime to your local authorities. The U.S. Secret Service and the FBI, through the Internet Crime Complaint Center also investigate internet-related crimes.