Hacking Required to Be Prosecuted as Hacker

From Threat Level, David Kravets’ post describes how a federal appeals court rebuked the Justice Department.

Employees may not be prosecuted under a federal anti-hacking statute for simply violating their employer’s computer use policy, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday, dealing a blow to the Obama administration’s Justice Department, which is trying to use the same theory to prosecute alleged WikiLeaks leaker Bradley Manning.

The case, decided by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, concerns the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which was passed in 1984 to enhance the government’s ability to prosecute hackers who accessed computers to steal information or to disrupt or destroy computer functionality…

The government, however, has interpreted the anti-hacking provisions to include activities such as violating a website’s terms of service or a company’s computer usage policy, a position the court said means “millions of unsuspecting individuals would find that they are engaging in criminal conduct.” The court said that violations of employee contract agreements and websites’ terms of service were better left to civil lawsuits.

Under the DOJ interpretation, checking your web based email at work is not only grounds for firing, it could also lead to federal prosecution. The same goes for unauthorized activity on Facebook.

Keep in mind, this applies only to the Ninth Circuit, the Supreme Court can still decide otherwise.

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