Election Tampering Allegations Against Student Matt Weaver

According to MSNBC, Matt Weaver is a “college junior running for president of the student government at California State San Marcos, north of San Diego” who has been “arrested on March 15 on suspicion of election fraud, unlawful access to a computer and 10 counts of identity theft.” (MSNBC – Source Link).

The article mentions that Weaver was purportedly caught in the act while working on a computer belonging to the school, and allegedly operating a “device used to steal passwords.” (MSNBC – Source Link). Based on the information in the article, it is not certain whether the device allegedly used by Weaver was a physical recording machine or digital software, such as a key logger or other similar recording program, which records and saves the key strokes of users.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is involved in the investigation of the incident, as it “appears there may be violations of federal laws.” (MSNBC – Source Link). Although there have not yet been any charges against Weaver as of this posting, it seems that the statute that is likely at issue is 18 USC § 1030, which pertains to FRAUD AND RELATED ACTIVITY IN CONNECTION WITH COMPUTERS.

Of the different types of activities punished under this federal statute, the following sub-sections are particularly relevant: 18 USC § 1030(a)(2)(C) creates criminal liability for persons who “intentionally access computers without authorization or exceed authorized access, and thereby obtain information from any protected computer”; 18 USC § 1030(a)(4) deals with individuals who “knowingly and with intent to defraud, access a protected computer without authorization, or exceed authorized access, and by means of such conduct further the intended fraud and obtain anything of value”; 18 USC § 1030(a)(5)(A) punishes those that “knowingly cause the transmission of a program, information, code, or command, and as a result of such conduct, intentionally cause damage without authorization, to a protected computer.”

The punishment varies greatly depending on the damage or injuries caused by the digital intrusions, as well as other factors. It is also important to note that the relevant definition of “protected computer” is a computer “which is used in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce or communication, including a computer located outside the United States that is used in a manner that affects interstate or foreign commerce or communication of the United States’ — which is a seemingly broad definition.

It will be interesting to see how the federal authorities choose to proceed.

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