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Computer Fraud & Abuse Act

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With the emergence of computer technology, the Computer Fraud & Abuse Act (CFAA) was enacted by Congress in 1984. As computer technology advances, and access to the internet spreads, the CFAA has taken on greater importance in battling computer crimes such as hacking.

What Is the Computer Fraud & Abuse Act?

The CFAA was initially written to protect federal classified information maintained on federal computers, as well as financial and credit records stored on government and financial institution computers. Later, the federal government sought to expand computer protection, and now the CFAA protects all computers involved in interstate and foreign commerce as well as connected to the internet.

What Does the Computer Fraud & Abuse Act Cover?

The CFAA is very broad and encompasses seven different acts of computer related crime:

  • Espionage - Prevents the knowing access of government computers to obtain classified information
  • Confidentiality of Computer Data - Prevents access to financial and credit files stored on computers
  • Unauthorized Access of Government Computers - Prevents any unauthorized access of a government computer
  • Computer Fraud - Makes it a crime to access and fraudulently use a protected computer to obtain anything valued at more than $5,000 in any one-year period
  • Viruses - Covers anyone who deliberately submits a program, information, code or command which causes damage, without authorization, to a protected computer
  • Passwords - Prohibits anyone from posting or sharing passwords that lead to unauthorized access to computers
  • Extortion - Prohibits anyone from taking money or any other thing of value by coercion or threat using a computer

What Are the Penalties?

If you are found guilty of committing any of the crimes listed under the CFAA you will face a fine and possible imprisonment. The fine for committing a first offense averages about $5,000 per crime and the imprisonment ranges from 1 to 10 years.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

If you have been accused of violating the Computer Fraud & Abuse Act or accused of committing a computer related crime, an attorney specializing in cyberspace law can review your case and ensure that you are represented.

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 07-19-2016 10:31 AM PDT

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