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The Latest Developments in Computer Crime Law

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The Latest Developments in Computer Crime Law

  1. 1. The Latest Developments in Computer Crime Law SOURCE Seattle June 15, 2011 Marcia Hofmann, EFF
  2. 2. what we’ll talk about today ✪ The federal hacking law and why it’s problematic. ✪ A couple trends that have emerged from recent cases in which courts have interpreted the scope of this law. ✪ What these trends suggest about the future.
  3. 3. Background The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act 18 U.S.C. § 1030
  4. 4. seven basic prohibitions 1) espionage 2) improperly accessing financial records, government information, or information on a “protected computer” 3) trespass to government computers 4) improperly accessing someone else’s computer with intent to defraud 5) causing damage to someone else’s computer 6) password trafficking with intent to defraud 7) extortion
  5. 5. improper access The CFAA prohibits, among other things, “intentionally access[ing] a computer without authorization or in excess of authorization, and thereby obtain[ing] . . . information from any protected computer.” 18 U.S.C. § 1030(a)(2)(C).
  6. 6. improper access Courts have interpreted “obtaining information” broadly. Basically any computer connected to the internet is a “protected computer.” So the major limiting principle is “authorized.”
  7. 7. development 1 expansive theories of unauthorized access/exceeding authorized access
  8. 8. Some people have argued that authorization ends when an employee violates a duty of loyalty to an employer... International Airport Centers v. Citrin LVRC Holdings v. Brekka
  9. 9. Others have gone so far as to argue that authorization ends when a person violates a web site’s terms of use. United States v. Drew Facebook v. Power Ventures United States v. Lowson
  10. 10. The case law in this area recently took a turn for the worse when an appeals court found that violating an employer’s computer use policies “exceeds authorized access.” United States v. Nosal
  11. 11. The future? Lee v. PMSI, Inc. Sony v. Hotz
  12. 12. development 2 attempts to double-count penalties for unauthorized access
  13. 13. A first-time violation of the “unauthorized access” provision is generally a misdemeanor. However, it can be elevated to a felony in certain circumstances, like when the offense is committed in furtherance of another crime or tortious act.
  14. 14. United States v. Drew Government: felony unauthorized access to a computer in furtherance of intentionally inflicting emotional distress. Jury: no, misdemeanor unauthorized access. Judge: no, violating terms of service is not unauthorized access.
  15. 15. United States v. Kernell Government: felony unauthorized access to a computer in furtherance of unauthorized access to email and unauthorized access to a computer.
  16. 16. United States v. Kernell Government: felony unauthorized access to a computer in furtherance of unauthorized access to email and unauthorized access to a computer. Do over!
  17. 17. United States v. Kernell Government: felony unauthorized access to a computer in furtherance of invasion of privacy and aiding and abetting other unauthorized accesses to a computer. Jury: no, misdemeanor unauthorized access.
  18. 18. United States v. Cioni Government: felony unauthorized access to a computer in furtherance of unauthorized access to email. Jury: yup, two felonies. (This is a problem.)
  19. 19. The CFAA prohibits unauthorized access to and obtaining information from a computer. (Here, email.) The Stored Communications Act prohibits unauthorized access to an electronic communication service and obtaining stored communications. (Here, email.) It’s the same thing.
  20. 20. United States v. Cioni Government: felony unauthorized access to a computer in furtherance of unauthorized access to email. Jury: yup, two felonies. Appeals court: no, these are misdemeanors.
  21. 21. The future? legislative changes (enhanced penalties?)
  22. 22. questions? Marcia Hofmann Senior Staff Attorney, EFF marcia@eff.org

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