Court Finds Insider Redirecting Domain Traffic Not “Interruption of Service” Under Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

In a civil case where a former director, after being removed as director, logged into the company’s Internet domain names and redirected traffic away from the company resulting in lost revenue and business opportunities, the court determined that such redirection of traffic away from the company was not an “interruption of service” under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

As I have both blogged several times and written in the Texas Lawyer, in order to bring a civil claim under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act you must show a “loss” of at least $5,000 which (1) is usually a “cost” in most cases, or (2) in those rare cases where there is an interruption of service, can also include other consequential damages in reaching that magical $5,000 hurdle:

“any reasonable cost to any victim, including the cost of responding to an offense, conducting a damage assessment, and restoring the data, program, system, or information to its condition prior to the offense, and any revenue lost, cost incurred, or other consequential damages incurred because of interruption of service.” 18 U.S.C. § 1030(e)(11) (emphasis added).

In the case Ritlabs, S.R.L. v. Ritlabs, Inc., 2012 WL 6021328 (E.D. Va. Nov. 30, 2012), the access violation under the facts stated above is clear — the former director who accessed the company’s Internet domain after he was relieved of his position was accessing “the computer” without authorization. In fact, the court had previously held as much in an earlier opinion finding liability only. The problem is this is a civil case and the cost for mitigating the damages caused by the wrongful access was only $2,026.08 even though the lost business opportunities for sales that were redirected away from the company were $8,757.50. Clearly the plaintiff couldn’t meet the minimum $5,000 loss requirement based only on the usual cost so it had to argue there was also an interruption of service for the CFAA claim to survive. The plaintiff argued that, by redirecting the Internet domain traffic to another site it amounted to an interruption of service. It didn’t work. The court found there was no interruption of service and, therefore, the plaintiff could not maintain an action for violating the CFAA.

Takeaway: Logging into a company’s Internet domain and redirecting traffic away from the company to another site in a way that causes business to likewise be redirected away from the company is not an interruption of service under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. 

Should you or anyone you know need assistance in dealing with possible claims under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act or just want to talk about the law in general, please feel free to give me a call (469.635.1335) or email me (stuma@brittontuma.com) and I will be more than happy to talk with you!

-Shawn E. Tuma

Social Media Law: Video Presentation for Social Media Breakfast

The full video of my recent presentation on social media law is now available!

On August 30, 2012, I made a presentation to Social Media Breakfast Dallas titled Social Media Law: It is Real and, Yes, It Can Impact Your Business. The presentation was about social media law and how it relates to businesses using social media. The presentation was professionally videoed by Jason (@jcroftmagic) and the great people at Magic Production Group (@magicprogroup) and they did a fantastic job on the production! The full video presentation is embedded on both Vimeo and YouTube below and you can also access it by clicking on the links for Vimeo and YouTube. As always, please feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss these issues any further! Shawn Tuma: @shawnetuma / stuma@brittontuma.com / 214.726.2808.

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/49071894″>Shawn Tuma – Social Media Law</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/magicvideoinc”>Magic Production Group</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Discussion of Problems with Proposed Cybercrime Legislation

There are many proposals floating around Capitol Hill that will purport to beef up our nation’s current cybercrime laws, first and foremost the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. I have recently read two very good articles that do a nice job of explaining many of the inadequacies of the proposed legislation and is well worth the read:

Obama Cybersecurity Proposal: Flawed, But Fixable

Obama’s Cybercrime Crackdown Already Outdated, Experts Say | Government & Legislation | Law & Justice | SecurityNewsDaily.

As for me, the first thing I want Congress to do is make it clear what is really an improper access under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and tell us to whom it is really intended to apply (yeah, I know, different Congress = different intent … but hey, if I’m a wishin’ I’m a gonna wish good!).

Beyond that pipe-dream, I am wondering if the most effective thing Congress could do isn’t to simply amend the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to provide that (1) a “loss” required for a civil claim includes having one’s personally identifiable private information compromised, and (2) the person who’s information was compromised has a civil claim against both the hacker of the information and the person or entity from which the information was hacked.

Make this happen and some very enterprising plaintiff’s lawyers will take care of the rest.

As I asked in my post last week: Who’s Gonna Get It? Mark my words, at some point, somebody will. My hunch is that if Congress made these couple of amendments we’d find out the answer to that question a whole lot easier and quicker!

Grandpaw’s Lessons: My New Blog Series

I have decided to start a blog series called “Grandpaw’s Lessons”. The general purpose of this series will be to share many of the lessons that my grandfather taught me as well as how, throughout my life, I always seem to be getting reminded of them—sometimes in a good way, sometimes not! (depending upon whether I learned the lesson)

In an odd sort of way this series has been in the works for many years though I have only thought about writing it for the last week or so. How’s that for nonsense? What I mean is that I remember sitting in the pew at Grandpaw’s funeral and fondly reminiscing about the wonderful life he lived, how he had such a powerful impact on my life, and the many lessons he taught me about life even though I had no idea (or appreciation) that he was doing so at the time. Sitting in that pew I thought it would be a really nice tribute to my grandfather’s life, as well as a benefit to others with whom I shared those lessons, and I began thinking about writing a book with the daily lesson from Grandpaw. Well, that was a few years ago. Given how busy my life is and how many books I have planned to write … but haven’t … guess what? The book remains unwritten though it is the seed of this series. This is for you Grandpaw (Edward Tuma, Sr.).

A few weeks ago I tip-toed into the world of blogging. In my first blog, What I Learned In My First Week Using Social Media, I said:

And I know there is still lots more to learn but if there is one thing that I can say sticks out more than anything else it is this: if you want to effectively use social media for business, do your best to try and be a good genuine person who is honest, uses good old fashioned manners, and shows basic respect for others.”

When I wrote those words I was reminded of the source of what I was saying as I said it: Grandpaw. That was the way Grandpaw lived every aspect of his life, including how he managed his business. Grandpaw had an automobile body shop and never became a rich man though he helped quite a few people when they found themselves in a position of needing help and there were no others around the help. Everyone around Grandpaw always told him he was being foolish because others were taking advantage of him and cheating him but Grandpaw didn’t care because his was a life governed by core principle—true core principles. One that I’ll always remember him saying over and over in response to such criticism from others was, “at least I can sleep at night”. That was Grandpaw’s way of saying “I’m doing what is right regardless of the outcome.” Just imagine if most in our world lived by that standard today …

To those observing (and critiquing) Grandpaw’s life, they would have told you that he could have made more money but when people couldn’t afford to pay, were down on their luck, or just had a really good good sob story for him (and he could see through it), he let them pay whatever they could. Even if it was nothing. That is, Grandpaw gave away a lot for free. If you saw my most recent blog, “I’m a No0b” you know this is one of the things I’ve recently learned about successful social media marketing. Funny thing is, Grandpaw taught me this lesson through example many decades ago. That is how this process has gone. Time and time again over the past few weeks I have these “new” strategies for social media marketing only to sit back and think for a moment and realize that this “new” strategy is no different than the “old way” that Grandpaw taught me. That was the fertilizer.

Last week I read Seth Godin’s blog entitled The New Craftsmanship and that one hit me square in the face—that was even the word that Grandpaw always used to describe himself—craftsman. That moved me so much that I started a draft blog about it that will be forthcoming, perhaps, in a day or two (depending on how much family time I am willing to sacrifice for this project!). That was the soil.

Yesterday, I was reading Ingrid Abboud’s Bring IT! series on her nittyGriddyBlog and really like the way that she uses that and the SuperPost Sunday series in her work. It seems pretty effective to have a themed series. That pushed me a little closer; I continued to think through the idea of doing a series about the lessons that Grandpaw taught me. That was the water.

Then, just this morning, I got up and read a few of the comments on my Facebook status from yesterday:

planting flowers with the family! i love spring! (and it is to me so hush up — don’t care if its still feb!)”

To this, Rob Wieters mentioned that, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, it was still too early to plant. To which I responded that my grandfather had always read the Almanac and, more often than not, it was right. That comment prompted Carol Watts, a family friend who knew my grandfather, to say what a good man he was. That was it—the sunlight that made me say “I’m going to do it, I’m going to begin blogging a series of lessons from Grandpaw!”

I hope you will enjoy reading the blog posts as much as I will enjoy writing them. Oh, by the way, in case you’re wondering about the coffee cup, well, many of my favorite conversations with Grandpaw took place early in the morning before anyone else was awake, sitting at the kitchen table while enjoying a cup of coffee. The cup in the picture was the cup I always used at Grandpaw’s house. Because it is very special to me, I now only use it on special occasions … such as this morning. I miss you Grandpaw but I sure appreciate all of the wisdom you shared with me over the years and know you too would have enjoyed sharing it with others as well. Welcome to the world of blogging Gramps!