Court Says Sending Too Many Emails To Someone Is Computer Hacking

from the you-can't-be-serious dept

Okay, the courts are just getting out of hand when it comes to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), which is supposed to be used against cases of malicious hacking. Most people would naturally assume that this meant situations in which someone specifically broke into a protected computing system and either copied stuff or destroyed stuff. And yet, because of terrible drafting, the law is broad and vague and courts are regularly stretching what the CFAA covers in dangerous ways.

The latest example, found via Michael Scott is that the Sixth Circuit appeals court has overturned a district court ruling, and is now saying that a labor union can be sued for violating the CFAA because it asked members to email and call an employer many times, in an effort to protest certain actions. Now some of the volume may have hurt the business, but does it reach the level of hacking? What's really troubling is even just the focus on emails:
The e-mails wreaked more havoc: they overloaded Pulte's system, which limits the number of e-mails in an inbox; and this, in turn, stalled normal business operations because Pulte's employees could not access business-related e-mails or send e-mails to customers and vendors
So... because Pulte's IT folks set up their email boxes such that they could only hold a certain number of emails, suddenly this raises to the level of "hacking"? That seems like a stretch, and you can definitely see how such a rule can and likely will be abused. Especially since the court made some very broad statements, including:
[We] conclude that a transmission that weakens a sound computer system—or, similarly, one that diminishes a plaintiff’s ability to use data or a system—causes damage.
Broad enough for you? I can see this ruling being cited in all sorts of abusive trials now.

Filed Under: cfaa, email, hacking


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  1. identicon
    NamelessOne, 9 Aug 2011 @ 5:10pm

    @40 then @43 then @45 then @46 then @53

    @40
    too bad none of what you said was done by said union and in fact as the article says all that was done was the union asking its members to email that address.
    @43
    and that's why no spam filtering would work on this cause these were real people doing as they should email someone, if your going to raise taxes and are a politician do you think you want to only be able to get 10 email a day and then not use your account? HRMMMM me thinks someone really overreached authority here. Expect an appeal i would say. Other wise we in other nations will just laugh or heads off....
    @45
    actually when vb 4 was around there was 30000 coders whom banded together after MS said anything you make with said tool they owned too cause they made the tool....WE all emailed them once a day for a week personally and MS backed down ...we were sending them the "message" NOT trying to damage but that its important to us....they not do what they were saying. IT worked and you make it its your software.report was MS servers fell 4 times in that week.
    @46
    So when open media got 446000 people to electronically sign a petition you think sending all our emails to the minister is a hack? NOW i SAY GOT YA ....its bad precedent to go down this road cause once people cant vent they go out into london streets and do what?
    @53
    the inbox was full via way of the email systems rules and no other email accounts had issues. GO FIGURE.

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