[Sticky] Computer Fraud and Abuse Act
Please be advised:
The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) is a United States cybersecurity bill that was enacted in 1986 as an amendment to existing computer fraud law (18 U.S.C. § 1030), which had been included in the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984. The law prohibits accessing a computer without authorization, or in excess of authorization. Prior to computer-specific criminal laws, computer crimes were prosecuted as mail and wire fraud, but the applying law was often insufficient.
The original 1984 bill was enacted in response to concern that computer-related crimes might go unpunished. The House Committee Report to the original computer crime bill characterized the 1983 techno-thriller film WarGames—in which a young teenager (played by Matthew Broderick) from Seattle breaks into a U.S. military supercomputer programmed to predict possible outcomes of nuclear war and unwittingly almost starts World War III—as "a realistic representation of the automatic dialing and access capabilities of the personal computer."
The CFAA was written to extend existing tort law to intangible property, while, in theory, limiting federal jurisdiction to cases "with a compelling federal interest—i.e., where computers of the federal government or certain financial institutions are involved or where the crime itself is interstate in nature.", but its broad definitions have spilled over into contract law. (see "Protected Computer", below). In addition to amending a number of the provisions in the original section 1030, the CFAA also criminalized additional computer-related acts. Provisions addressed the distribution of malicious code and denial of service attacks. Congress also included in the CFAA a provision criminalizing trafficking in passwords and similar items.
Since then, the Act has been amended a number of times—in 1989, 1994, 1996, in 2001 by the USA PATRIOT Act, 2002, and in 2008 by the Identity Theft Enforcement and Restitution Act. With each amendment of the law, the types of conduct that fell within its reach were extended.
In January 2015 Barack Obama proposed expanding the CFAA and the RICO Act in his Modernizing Law Enforcement Authorities to Combat Cyber Crime proposal. DEF CON organizer and Cloudflare researcher Marc Rogers, Senator Ron Wyden, and Representative Zoe Lofgren have stated opposition to this on the grounds it will make many regular Internet activities illegal, and moves further away from what they were trying to accomplish with Aaron's Law
The only computers, in theory, covered by the CFAA are defined as "protected computers". They are defined under section to mean a computer:
- exclusively for the use of a financial institution or the United States Government, or any computer, when the conduct constituting the offense affects the computer's use by or for the financial institution or the government; or
- which is used in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce or communication, including a computer located outside the United States that is used in a manner that affects interstate or foreign commerce or communication of the United States ...
In practice, any ordinary computer has come under the jurisdiction of the law, including cellphones, due to the interstate nature of most Internet communication.
- (1) having knowingly accessed a computer without authorization or exceeding authorized access, and by means of such conduct having obtained information that has been determined by the United States Government pursuant to an Executive order or statute to require protection against unauthorized disclosure for reasons of national defense or foreign relations, or any restricted data, as defined in paragraph y. of section 11 of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, with reason to believe that such information so obtained could be used to the injury of the United States, or to the advantage of any foreign nation willfully communicates, delivers, transmits, or causes to be communicated, delivered, or transmitted, or attempts to communicate, deliver, transmit or cause to be communicated, delivered, or transmitted the same to any person not entitled to receive it, or willfully retains the same and fails to deliver it to the officer or employee of the United States entitled to receive it;
- (2) intentionally accesses a computer without authorization or exceeds authorized access, and thereby obtains—
- (A) information contained in a financial record of a financial institution, or of a card issuer as defined in section 1602 (n)  of title 15, or contained in a file of a consumer reporting agency on a consumer, as such terms are defined in the Fair Credit Reporting Act (15 U.S.C. 1681 et seq.);
- (B) information from any department or agency of the United States; or
- (C) information from any protected computer;
- (3) intentionally, without authorization to access any nonpublic computer of a department or agency of the United States, accesses such a computer of that department or agency that is exclusively for the use of the Government of the United States or, in the case of a computer not exclusively for such use, is used by or for the Government of the United States and such conduct affects that use by or for the Government of the United States;
- (4) knowingly and with intent to defraud, accesses a protected computer without authorization, or exceeds authorized access, and by means of such conduct furthers the intended fraud and obtains anything of value, unless the object of the fraud and the thing obtained consists only of the use of the computer and the value of such use is not more than $5,000 in any 1-year period;
- (A) knowingly causes the transmission of a program, information, code, or command, and as a result of such conduct, intentionally causes damage without authorization, to a protected computer;
- (B) intentionally accesses a protected computer without authorization, and as a result of such conduct, recklessly causes damage; or
- (C) intentionally accesses a protected computer without authorization, and as a result of such conduct, causes damage and loss.
- (6) knowingly and with intent to defraud traffics (as defined in section 1029) in any password or similar information through which a computer may be accessed without authorization, if—
- (A) such trafficking affects interstate or foreign commerce; or
- (B) such computer is used by or for the Government of the United States;
- (7) with intent to extort from any person any money or other thing of value, transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication containing any—
- (A) threat to cause damage to a protected computer;
- (B) threat to obtain information from a protected computer without authorization or in excess of authorization or to impair the confidentiality of information obtained from a protected computer without authorization or by exceeding authorized access; or
- (C) demand or request for money or other thing of value in relation to damage to a protected computer, where such damage was caused to facilitate the extortion
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