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Thu Jun 3, 2021, 11:07 AM

U.S. Supreme Court limits reach of federal computer fraud law

Source: Reuters

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday limited the type of conduct that can be prosecuted under a federal computer fraud law, overturning a former Georgia police officer's conviction for misusing a government database to investigate whether a purported local stripper was an undercover cop.

The justices, in a 6-3 decision authored by conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett, sided with former Cumming, Georgia police sergeant Nathan Van Buren in an appeal of his conviction under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, reversing a lower court ruling that had upheld a jury verdict against him.

The justices agreed that Van Buren could not be convicted for misusing the database to perform the investigation because the information had been available to him as part of his job. Van Buren was charged after a 2015 FBI sting operation.

"This provision covers those who obtain information from particular areas in the computer - such as files, folders or databases - to which their computer access does not extend. It does not cover those who, like Van Buren, have improper motives for obtaining information that is otherwise available to them," Barrett wrote in the ruling.

Read more: https://www.reuters.com/technology/us-supreme-court-limits-reach-federal-computer-fraud-law-2021-06-03/

11 replies, 2045 views

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Response to Jose Garcia (Original post)

Thu Jun 3, 2021, 11:24 AM

1. It's interesting that the majority included all 3 "liberal" justices

The 3 dissenters in this case were Thomas, Alito, and Roberts.

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Response to groundloop (Reply #1)

Thu Jun 3, 2021, 11:27 AM

2. So the 3 'liberals' were on agreement with the 3 Trump appointees

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Response to Jose Garcia (Reply #2)

Thu Jun 3, 2021, 02:15 PM

4. Probably because the law as written does not make it a crime.

That simply means that the law needs to be rewritten to close the loophole.

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Response to Jose Garcia (Original post)

Thu Jun 3, 2021, 12:15 PM

3. I'm not sure how I feel about this. But I'm wondering when this sting op took place?

just idol curiosity. I can check later.

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Response to Jose Garcia (Original post)

Thu Jun 3, 2021, 02:26 PM

5. I'm guessing this is a narrow ruling on database access

otherwise, gee, why did he need to know which side she was working for?

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Response to bucolic_frolic (Reply #5)

Thu Jun 3, 2021, 03:15 PM

6. They May Think It's Narrow But...

from my, cursory, reading of this story, it's actually pretty broad and not well thought out. ...authored by someone who has no idea what they're talking about.

A lot of guys like this are going to get out of jail. ...free.

Trillium Health IT specialist admits to stealing personal info from colleagues' computers

A Trillium Health information technology specialist used his access to his colleagues' computers to steal personal information from them and to pull personal photos from their social media accounts.

Ameer Elashmawy, a 28-year-old Rochester man, pleaded guilty Monday to computer fraud.

"In his position, Elashmawy had administrative access to all employee network accounts while they used their computers at work," according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office. "Between April 2019 and January 2020,(Elashmawy) used his administrative access rights to search employees’ email and social media accounts without their knowledge or permission."


Then again, cases like that of Aaron Swartz might be avoided.

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Response to Jose Garcia (Original post)

Thu Jun 3, 2021, 03:21 PM

7. Wait, accessing the Federal Bureau of Information files

for non-criminal purposes was always against the law. Because she was a stripper? What was his probably cause to check her out?

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Response to Historic NY (Reply #7)

Thu Jun 3, 2021, 04:11 PM

8. He needed money and accepted $6000 from someone in exchange for doing a background check

The government took a dim view on him doing background checks as a side hustle. The Supreme Court is essentially ruling that the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act makes it illegal to access a computer without authorization, it doesn't make it a crime to use information you have access to for nefarious purposes.

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Response to Historic NY (Reply #7)

Sat Jun 5, 2021, 03:20 AM

11. It doesn't say he accessed FBI files (nt)

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Response to Jose Garcia (Original post)

Thu Jun 3, 2021, 05:42 PM

9. I'm confused.

Was she a purported stripper or a purported cop? I could figure one out pretty easily without a computer.

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Response to Jose Garcia (Original post)

Thu Jun 3, 2021, 11:48 PM

10. He just can't be charged with that specific crime is what I'm inferring.

They're not saying he's not guilty of accessing records inappropriately, just that he can't be charged specifically with the crime "Computer Fraud and Abuse" since he had access to the records and didn't commit fraud nor abuse to obtain them. It's an understandable technicality.

Most companies make you take lots of training and sign documents saying that an employee won't access records they have access to for non company-use. That's how the employee is in the wrong and should be disciplined.

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