Employees using an organization’s computer system could face serious legal issues if a supervisor alleges an unlawful access. For example, if an employee uses a network for matters unrelated to a job’s responsibilities, an employer could claim trespassing. 

South Carolina’s Code of Laws prohibits accessing a computer network to change, damage or destroy its data and contents. An individual found tapping into a program for the purpose of fraudulently obtaining money or services may face a serious felony offense. 

An investigation may uncover alleged system misuse 

An employee granted login credentials to a workstation has permission to use it for carrying out his or her tasks. When an employer suspects theft, fraud or abuse of an internal system, an investigation typically begins to determine if evidence of unauthorized use exists. 

A review of an employee’s emails, program habits and communications may reveal that an unlawful act occurred. To protect the organization’s systems, an employer has the right to terminate a worker and provide the results of the investigation to law enforcement officials. A prosecutor may then conduct a separate external investigation to determine whether to file state or federal charges. 

Employee sentenced over use of employer’s computer to divert funds 

A South Carolina resident working as a government claims specialist admitted to accessing a Social Security Administration computer to divert over $70,000 to her bank account. By using the government’s computer, she found Social Security records for disabled individuals entitled to funds due to an underpayment. 

An investigation revealed that the employee used the SSA computer to alter the recipients’ payment information. As reported by The State, she received an incarceration sentence of 18 months after pleading guilty. Her sentence requires her to serve three years of supervised release after completing her time in federal prison. 

When an employer alleges an employee of engaging in a white collar offense, such as unauthorized computer access or embezzlement, a defense strategy may consist of lessening the charge to avoid a harsh punishment. Under a variety of circumstances, a conviction for unauthorized use of an employer’s computer could result in up to 10 years in prison.