On January 2015, the Obama administration announced a series of proposals to strengthen the country’s response to cyberattacks including, most notably, specific amendments to the federal computer crime statute, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). These changes are not only significant to the cyber crime-fighting efforts of federal prosecutors, but also to private companies. This is because the CFAA allows companies victimized by violations of the statute to bring civil actions against the perpetrators. 18 U.S.C. 1030(g). The CFAA, among other things, makes it a crime when an individual “accesses” a computer “without authorization or exceeds authorized access” to steal data.
In all jurisdictions the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), 18 U.S.C. 1030, the federal computer crime statute, applies to former employees who steal data from the company computer, but in two federal circuits it does not apply when the theft occurs during employment. The difference in jurisdictions is significant to employers because the CFAA provides a civil remedy for damages and injunctive relief for a company that “suffers damage or loss” by reason of a violation of the CFAA. 18 U.S.C. 1030(g).
Last year the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in U.S. v. Nosal, 676 F.3d 854 (9th Cir. 2012), disagreed with certain of its sister circuits and narrowly interpret-ed what it means to access the company computer “without authorization,” effec-tively eliminating a company’s ability in that jurisdiction to use the CFAA against current employees. This column will review the conflicting interpretations of the CFAA that distinguishes between current and former employees and the strategies and options companies can employ to navigate this conflict.
Last month I posted my article from the National Law Journal, entitled, “Time to Review Computer Policies,” discussing three recent cases, including LVRC Holdings LLC v. Brekka, 81 F.3d 1127, 1131 (9th Cir. 2009). I cited Brekka for the proposition that it is important to delineate the scope of an employee’s permissible access to the… Read More