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Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA)

The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) is a United States federal law enacted in 1986 that primarily addresses computer-related crimes and cyber security. The CFAA was initially introduced as an amendment to the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984 and has since been updated several times to adapt to the evolving digital landscape. The CFAA criminalizes unauthorized access to protected computers and networks, as well as various forms of computer-related fraud and abuse.

Key provisions of the CFAA include:

  • Unauthorized access: The CFAA prohibits intentionally accessing a computer or network without authorization or exceeding authorized access. This covers various forms of hacking, such as breaking into computer systems, stealing passwords, or exploiting security vulnerabilities.
  • Obtaining information: The CFAA makes it illegal to obtain information from a protected computer without authorization, such as stealing sensitive data, intellectual property, or trade secrets.
  • Damaging or causing harm to a computer: The CFAA criminalizes causing damage to a computer or its data, including introducing malware, viruses, or ransomware, as well as intentionally disrupting, denying, or degrading the service of a computer or network.
  • Fraud: The CFAA prohibits using a computer to commit or further fraudulent activities, such as identity theft, phishing, or financial fraud.
  • Trafficking in passwords: The CFAA outlaws trafficking in passwords or other access credentials for unauthorized access to protected computers or networks.
  • Threats to damage a computer: The CFAA criminalizes making threats to cause damage to a computer or network, such as demanding ransom in exchange for not launching a cyberattack or not releasing stolen data.

Violations of the CFAA can result in both criminal and civil penalties. Criminal penalties can range from fines to imprisonment, depending on the severity of the offense and whether it's a first-time or repeat offense. Civil penalties can include monetary damages and injunctive relief.

While the CFAA has been effective in prosecuting various computer-related crimes, it has also faced criticism for its broad language and potential for overreach. Some argue that the CFAA can be used to target relatively minor infractions or activities that are not necessarily malicious or harmful, leading to calls for reform and clarification of the law.

In summary, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) is a U.S. federal law that addresses computer-related crimes and cyber security. It criminalizes unauthorized access to protected computers and networks, as well as various forms of computer-related fraud and abuse. Violations of the CFAA can result in both criminal and civil penalties, depending on the severity of the offense.



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