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Court: Disloyal Employees Not Hackers

Good news for disgruntled employees wanting to hack into the company database and steal all the information for personal use. According to Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act cannot be used to prosecute ex-employees-- those who were once authorized to access company computers--for using company information after quitting the job. This means that ex-employees are now off the hook even if their intent with the "stolen" data was to open a competing business.

According to Ars Technica, the decision came after LVRC Holdings filed a lawsuit against a former employee, his wife, and their independent consulting business. The company claims that the ex-employee used the company computers "without authorization" to email to himself LVRC client files for use in his business once he left the company. The judge disagreed with the "unauthorized access," saying that he had permission as an employee.

Unfortunately, today's ruling contradicts a 2006 decision made by the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, saying that employees lose authorization to company computers if the motives are disloyal. but on Wednesday the court said that there is no language in the 1984 statute that supports the argument that "authorization to use a computer ceases when an employee resolves to use the computer contrary to the employer’s interests."

Because of the contradiction, Wednesday's decision may end up in the U.S. Supreme Court for a possible review.