In 1975, at the age of just 19, Bill Gates started one of the largest corporations that the world has ever seen. But did you know that just 5 years before that he dialed into a nationwide network and successfully crashed the entire network after uploading a virus?
Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were not so innocent either. A few years before starting Apple, the largest company in the world at one point, they were going around their college campus selling wires and electrical boxes that allowed students on campus to essentially steal from phone companies by making free long distance calls.
Where does computer hacking get you today?
Let us fast forward a few decades and we can see just how harsh the federal government has cracked down on hackers. A good example is Aaron Schwartz. He was sentenced to 50 years (yes, FIFTY) in federal prison for downloading public documents from PACER and making them a little bit easier to access. Schwartz would end up killing himself to avoid serving that much time in prison.
Why didn’t Gates, Jobs, and Wozniak get in trouble like Schwartz did? The answer to this comes in the form of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA).
The CFAA covers more than you think.
This resolution, passed in 1986, covers more than just the hardcore hackers you may be picturing. Have you checked your Facebook at work while knowing your employer has deemed this as forbidden? What about using your roommate’s Netflix account on one of your devices? These actions technically violate the CFAA. Will you go to federal prison for doing these things? Probably not, but we are mentioning them to illustrate the ambiguity of the CFAA.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Please contact attorney Kirk Anderson for an initial consultation.