News coverage about the recent decision in U.S. v. Nosal heralds the decision as preventing the government from going after employees who use company computers to check their Facebook status or the latest sports scores. But employers need to know that this decision puts the onus on businesses to strengthen protections for confidential information.
The Computer Fraud & Abuse Act (CFAA) is a 1984 anti-hacking law that prohibits someone from accessing a computer either “without authorization” or by “exceeding authorized access.” In Nosal, the government was using this law to prosecute Nosal’s theft of information from his ex-employer by using his old co-workers who were still employed to access the sensitive information. In its decision, the court found in favor of Nosal because Nosal’s old co-workers still had permission to access the information, and thus there was no unauthorized access.
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