Bill seeks tougher penalties for hackers

Embarrassing messages sent to friends and clients. Prank phone calls. Threats texted to his girlfriend.

A Las Vegas man shared a laundry list of modern technological terrors with state senators Friday, telling them about what a woman did after she felt scorned following a date with him.

"There are not words to describe how violated you feel," Jeff Crampton said. "I live afraid of the next time it will happen."

A Nevada senate committee was considering a bill that would raise the penalty for illegally gaining access into a computer, also known as hacking. Measure SB376, sponsored by Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, and 14 other lawmakers, would charge hacking as a low-level felony carrying a longer prison term and a fine, instead of a misdemeanor.

The misdemeanor sentence currently in state law allows for up to six months in prison and a fine of up to $1,000.

Crampton said the alleged hacker broke into his email and sent embarrassing messages to his contacts list. She made prank calls and sent threatening text messages to his girlfriend, Crampton said, and then used the girlfriend's email account to send emails to his clients telling them not to trust him in major business deals.

When she was told she could be put in jail, she allegedly said, "Not in the state of Nevada."

The proposed legislation would carry a prison term of one to four years and a fine of up to $5,000.

"Misdemeanor crimes are rarely prosecuted," Cegavske said. "This gets the offender's attention."

Hacking includes willfully interfering with a computer network or communications device or locking someone out of their computer or device. A stricter penalty applies if the hacking interrupts a government computer system, causes injury or commits fraud.

Chuck Callaway, of the Las Vegas Metropolitan police department, said investigations for such crimes often take months. He supported the stronger punishments in the proposal, saying police don't like to expend many resources on hacking crimes when the existing penalty is so small.


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