Doxing, swatting, and DoS attacks considered felonies in new Utah bill

Some may consider doxing, SWATting, and DoS attacks to be little more than funny pranks, but in Utah, those "pranks" could soon mean jail time.

Utah Representative David E. Lifferth (R) is serious about stopping cyber crime -- so serious that he's introduced a bill to amend the criminal code to classify certain unsavory (and often dangerous) activities as criminal. Depending on the offense, cyber criminals can be charged with anything from a misdemeanor to a third-degree felony. 

Utah's House Bill 225 focuses on crimes that are considered to be forms of harassment, like doxing, swatting, and DoS (Denial of Service) attacks -- activities that often have serious consequences for the victims involved. 

While the bill's language does not include the word "doxing," it includes an apt description of the practice as anyone who: 

“[...] electronically publishes, posts, or otherwise makes available personal identifying information in a public online site or forum” with the “intent to annoy, alarm, intimidate, offend, abuse, threaten, harass, frighten, or disrupt the electronic communications of another.”

Doxing an adult, according to the bill, will be a class A or B misdemeanor, depending on whether or not it's a first offense. However, doxing a minor has much more severe consequences, being classified as a third degree felony.

The term "swatting" is also missing from the bill, but is nonetheless legally defined as: 

“...mak[ing] a false report to an emergency response service, including a law enforcement dispatcher or a 911 emergency response service, or intentionally aids, abets, or causes a third party to make the false report, and the false report describes an ongoing emergency situation that as reported is causing or poses an imminent threat of causing serious bodily injury, serious physical injury, or death; and states that the emergency situation is occurring at a specified location.”

The bill classifies "swatting" as a third degree felony, regardless of the age of the victim.

Denial of Service attacks are mentioned in the bill by name, being defined as “an attack or intrusion that is intended to disrupt legitimate access to a network resource or system." These attacks are considered a third degree felony.

Such crimes have made the headlines a lot in recent years, with prominent, controversial figures in gaming being doxed for voicing unpopular opinions and Twitch streamers being swatted as a prank.

Further, cybercrimes such as these damage the gaming community at large, at a time when gaming has slowly begun to gain more respect - because every gamer that starts or participates in a charity or earns recognition as an eSports competitor can be terribly overshadowed by one "prankster" that thought the potential harm that could be done by such a "joke" was easily outweighed by the amusement they gained from someone else's inconvenience -- or even outright terror. Legislation like what's being proposed in Utah might be a step towards deterring such behavior - and as a result, it may help to improve the standing of gaming in society at large.

Is this bill a step in the right direction, or does it not go far enough? What would you consider a fair classification for these offenses, and why? Let us know in the comment section.

Published Feb. 4th 2016
View Comments
  • Si_W
    Guessing someone found it funny.

    That person needs locking up for the sake of those in the world around him/her.
  • Mathenaut
    Swatting is already a crime.
    DDoS attacks are already a crime.
    The language on dox reads similar to the Greg Elliot case.

    The language of this bill mostly just expands liability to people not directly responsible and seriously lowers the bar on what the state can prosecute.

    Careful what you wish for. The usual suspects pushing for this are more at risk than anyone.
  • Jessa Rittenhouse
    Can you elaborate on what you mean? While yes, these things were already criminal acts, they're making them part of the state code, giving them their own classification and consequences, rather than making them part of other laws. At least, this is my understanding of it.

    As for the other part of your comment - do you refer to the fact that the owner of the computer used to commit the crimes can be held responsible even if they're not the ones committing the crime? I have mixed feelings on that, personally, but I think over all, this bill has the right idea. It may need more tweaking, and by someone who has a better grasp of the culture from which these acts have arisen.
  • Mathenaut
    Calling in a swat response is already a felony.
    DDoS attacks are already a felony.

    There is, literally, nothing more that the state can do. Normally, that action of the legislation would be redundant and would never come into play unless, for some reason, the federal government declines to prosecute and the state wants to anyways (i.e. never).

    Strictly speaking, this isn't Swatting and DDoS, it's "Swatting" and "DDoS", so the State can prosecute things that the Fed doesn't consider a crime or petition the Fed to accept cases that it normally wouldn't. That'll end well.

    The harassment bit is interesting, as it draws from definitions used in identity fraud. Here's the fun bits:

    - 'Repeated contact' includes conversations.
    - Flags: Mention of name, job title, place of employment (regardless of who mentions it).
    - Flags: Causing notifications (phone, twitter, facebook, etc).
    - Doesn't consider: Whether info was already available.
    - My favorite? Subsection 2(b) is cleverly worded. It flags triggering people (seriously).

    What usual suspects hope:
    File lawsuit for being triggered by someone you disagree with regardless of how they entered your mentions/timeline.

    What it also covers:
    Publicly shaming people for disagreeing with you, even if you don't mention them by name.

    You people have no idea what you're setting in motion and how difficult this will be to undo.
  • Venisia Gonzalez
    Featured Columnist
    This is great news. I hope other states follow suit.

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