WASHINGTON -- Whoever is behind the attacks on Internet sites this week could face serious penalties, even if they live abroad.
Federal law makes it a crime to transmit a code, program or command that damages a computer in interstate or foreign commerce, said Marc Zwillinger, deputy chief of the Justice Department's computer crime section.
If the damage is intentional, the penalties range from six months to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for the first offense, and up to 10 years in prison for the second offense. Victims can sue for restitution.
The U.S. penalties apply even to foreigners if they use a U.S. computer system in the attack.
Negligent, unintentional damage is a misdemeanor punishable by 6 months to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine.
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