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Justice Department asks for update to cybercrime act

 

Computer crime can have serious consequences. The recent Ashley Madison hack has already caused multiple lawsuits to be filed, and the release of very sensitive information related to infidelity has been tied to reported suicides. The cost of the Target data breach of 2013, including insurance payments, was $191 million.

 

But almost as disturbing as these massive data breaches is the potential to be charged with a federal crime for much smaller violations. In fact, some federal judges have expressed concern that an older federal law dealing with cybercrime allows too much conduct that is seemingly innocuous be deemed a criminal act.

 

The U.S. Department of Justice is now asking for amendments to the federal statute, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which was written in 1986. The act was drafted at a time when computers were very different and the potential threats were different. The Congressional hearings opened with a clip of the movie "War Games," which involved a kid hacking into the Pentagon's computers and almost starting a war.

Justice has lost some cases where they had difficulty showing how persons with authorized access were guilty of a federal crime. While they may have violated their employer's terms- of-use policies, the courts have been leery of making unauthorized use, as defined by internal company policies, into a federal crime.

One judge suggested that checking scores of sporting events on ESPN.com could be charged as a violation of the statute. And critics suggest that prosecutors already have more than enough statutory grounds for criminal prosecution.

A spokesperson for the Justice department has said the amendments will be focused on making it clear that unauthorized access for nefarious purposes will be a violation of law.

 

Source: bigstory.ap.org, "Justice Department looks to sharpen computer crime law," Erick Tucker, September 9, 2015

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