A Washington state man is facing a felony charge for an internet hoax that interfered with 911 dispatch operations in late October.
The 18-year-old from Thurston County was sent a link by a friend. He tested the link to see if it worked, then posted it to his Twitter page as a joke. Smartphone users who clicked on the link had their phones “hijacked,” according to police. The phones repeatedly dialed 911. Some cell phone users had to remove the batteries from their devices to get them to stop calling.
As a result of the trick, the local 911 dispatch center was flooded with hang-up calls. Dispatchers received one about every 30 seconds for half an hour. Even though dispatchers were inundated, investigators believe all callers with legitimate emergencies were able to reach a dispatcher.
Police tracked down the man who posted the link. He was arrested and faces a felony charge of electronic data service interference. It is unknown whether his friend, who sent him the link, will face charges.
A person is guilty of electronic data service interference if the person maliciously and without authorization causes the transmission of data, data program, or other electronic command that intentionally interrupts or suspends access to or use of a data network or data service. Electronic data service interference is a Class C felony, punishable by up to five years in prison, or a fine of up to $10,000 or both.
The charge is part of the tough, new Washington Cybercrime Act that passed through the state legislature in the spring.
In addition to electronic data service interference, the bill established the following as crimes:
- Spoofing is committed when a person, without authorization, knowingly initiates the transmission, display or receipt of information belonging to an organization or another person in order to gain unauthorized access to electronic data, a data system or a data network, and with the intent to commit another crime in violation of a state law. Spoofing is a gross misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail, or a fine of up to $5,000, or both.
- Electronic data tampering in the first degree is committed when an unauthorized person alters data as it transmits between two data systems over an open or unsecure network or introduces any malware into any electronic data, data system, or data network for the purpose of devising or executing any scheme to defraud, deceive, extort or commit any other crime in violation of a state law. It is also a violation to control, gain access to or obtain money, property or electronic data. Like electronic data service interference, electronic data tampering in the first degree is a Class C felony.
- Electronic data tampering in the second degree is a less damaging version of the first-degree charge. Like spoofing, it is a gross misdemeanor.
- Electronic data theft is committed when an unauthorized person obtains electronic data with the intent to devise or execute any scheme to defraud, deceive, extort or commit any other crime in violation of a state law. Electronic data theft is also Class C felony.
Everyone deserves a quality defense. If you have been charged under one of these new laws, call the Seattle law office of Steve Karimi at (206) 621-8777 or contact him online.
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