A federal appeals court has ruled that using a former assistant’s password to access information from a previous employer is hacking that is banned by the Computer Fraud
and Abuse Act.
The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 Tues day that former Korn/Ferry employee David Nosal violated the law when he used the password to collect information for his new, competing company, The court was interpreting a section of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act that imposes criminal penalties on anyone
who, with an intent to defraud, “accesses a protected computer without authorization.”
Judge M. Margaret McKeown wrote the majority decision upholding Nosal’s 366-day sentence for violating the law. Once permission to access a computer is affirmatively revoked, she said, a computer user “cannot sidestep the statute by going through the back door and accessing a computer through a third party.”
This decision applies to Nosal’s access to the Korn/Ferry computers using his former executive assistant’s password after his own credentials were revoked. “Nosal knowingly and with intent to defraud Korn/Ferry blatantly circumvented the revocation of his computer system access,” the majority opinion said. “This access falls squarely within the CFAA’s prohibition on access ‘without authorization.’”
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