Not Authorized! Employees and Computer Fraud

Your client calls with bad news. His burgeoning company had just recorded its best quarter ever. It seemed as though the sky was the limit, and others had started to take notice – including competitors. In the flurry of publicity, the company’s biggest rival head-hunted the company’s star salesperson. Up-and-comers were waiting in the wings to take her place, so your client thought everything would be fine – that is, until someone realized that the ex-salesperson downloaded customer lists, client data, and other confidential information onto a flash drive and took it with her.

Upon inspection of the ex-employee’s emails, the company’s IT department discovered that she was actually working for the competition two months before she resigned. And before she left, she permanently erased all contents of her company laptop, much of which was not stored elsewhere. Your client says the whole ordeal has already cost his company thousands of dollars to investigate and likely will cost much more in lost revenue.

Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA)

This scenario plays out all too often. One recent study found that more than half of all employees take with them proprietary data either knowingly or unwittingly when they leave a company. This really should not be surprising, though, given the ubiquity of computers, smartphones, and tablets in the workplace, as well as the ever-greater frequency of job changes in the professional market.

A situation like the one described above may come within the reach of the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), a criminal and civil statute that provides remedies for victims of security breaches.

. . . .

This article was co-written with Barbara A. Neider and originally appeared in the Wisconsin Lawyer. Read the entire article here.


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