Is it illegal to hack into someones personal email account?

Asked over 2 years ago - Sylmar, CA

I did a very stupid thing and got involved with a married man. His wife found out and, at least makes it seem, like she hacked into my or his email account because she claims to have pics of us and is now blackmailing me. If she indeed hack in, is that illegal?

Attorney answers (4)

  1. Nina Yablok

    Contributor Level 12


    Lawyers agree

    Answered . Hacking into someone else's email is often illegal, depending on how it's done. But since you don't even know if she's gotten into your email or his, and she may not have hacked into his, she may just have opened his computer and looked at the emails, I'd suggest you focus on the blackmail. Blackmail is illegal.

    The question is what is the best thing to do about it? Is she asking for money? or? No, don't tell us here, best to talk to either local law enforcement or an attorney. But I think the blackmail is the bigger issue because you don't even know if she's gotten into your email account. And I assume you've changed accounts, and password protected your computer and home wifi.

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  2. Marc John Randazza


    Contributor Level 13


    Lawyers agree

    Answered . Most definitely. 18 U.S.C. Sect. 1030 prohibits the unauthorized access to a "computer". An email account will qualify. Section 1030 makes it a crime, but also provides for a civil remedy if the damage done by the intrusion is more than $5,000.

  3. Barry Franklin Poulson

    Contributor Level 20


    Lawyers agree

    Answered . A break in to a computer or account is illegal, but as was pointed out, you may not be sure this was how his wife found out or found materials. You would need a computer or network technician, but if the intrusion happened on their household computer, you do not have access.

    Now, the next step, you do not know if she has any pictures. Even so, the threat of blackmail, with or without pictures, is a crime. That can be reported to the police.

    I assume you are no longer in touch with either of them, correct?

    Actual hacking is very difficult. More likely, if there was a break-in it was through knowing a password. If they both own the computer, then that is an issue, yes? There are levels and proofs of break-in, plus you do not know if she has anything. WHAT is she demanding?

    We do not have a client/attorney relationship until you make an appointment, we discuss your case face to face, I... more
  4. Daniel Gary Rosenthal


    Contributor Level 14


    Lawyer agrees

    Answered . Yes, it is illegal. It can be expensive to pursue, especially since you don't necessarily have proof that she hacked your account. For instance, perhaps the man provided the pictures voluntarily out of guilt.

    Saying she is "blackmailing" you does not really provide enough information. Blackmailing you by doing what? It would seem to me that she has more to lose than you do here. If you feel your assets are at risk from this action, you should consult an attorney immediately.

    The author is a Maryland attorney; however no answer given on Avvo is intended as legal advice or intended to... more

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