If you are reading this blog post, it is extremely likely that you are reading it on a personal computer at home, on your office computer, on your smart phone, or on all of the above. It is without question that the invention of computers has changed our lives. What was impossible even five years ago is now considered “normal.” For example, I have written this very blog post while seamlessly working remotely from home because my law firm, Stark & Stark, has provided me with the tools and resources to do so. Thankfully, I am able to utilize this technology while my firm protects me and my colleagues from COVID-19.
Unfortunately, there is also a dark side to the increased use of computers, which gives rise to different legal issues. Cybercriminals pray upon various vulnerabilities within computer networks and user mistakes. Rogue employees have easy access to confidential information, accounts, and money.
Legislation, like New Jersey’s Computer Related Offense Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:38-1, et. seq., provides victims of cybercrime, employee misuse, destruction, or unauthorized taking of computer information or programs with the ability to sue wrongdoers. The Computer Related Offense Act protects against the taking of any data and creates a private cause of action against any actor (individual, corporation, entity, or group) who purposefully or knowingly accesses, alters, damages, takes, or destroys computer information.
Successful Computer Related Offense Act claimants may recover compensatory and punitive damages, as well as the costs of bringing the lawsuit, including reasonable attorney’s fees, costs associated with the investigation, and litigation. N.J.S.A. 2A:38A-3.
Individuals and businesses should take important steps to protect their computers and network, including:
- establishing and keeping firewalls;
- installing and updating antivirus software;
- installing and updating antispyware technology;
- keeping the operating system up-to-date;
- creating and utilizing lengthy and complex passwords;
- not carelessly downloading e-mail attachments; and
- training employees to prevent cybercrime.
Unfortunately, those steps may not be enough to prevent the misuse, destruction, or unauthorized access to computer networks and data. Hence, legislation like New Jersey’s Computer Related Offense Act offers recourse to victims.