The dangers of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

By Joseph Quiroz

Contributing writer for End the Lie

Andrew "weev" Auernheimer (Image credit: weev/Wikimedia Commons)

Andrew “weev” Auernheimer (Image credit: weev/Wikimedia Commons)

On March 18, 2013, Andrew “weev” Auernheimer was sentenced to 41 months in prison and has been order to pay $73,000 in restitution to AT&T for his role in Goatse Security’s AT&T hack.

Editor’s note: be sure to read Joseph’s previous article, “America needs the truth

This incident involved the theft of over 100,000 email addresses gained due to a flaw in AT&T 3G iPad userbase. Auernheimer passed the information about the flaw along to Gawker.

After finding out what happened, AT&T took Auernheimer and Daniel Spitler, Auernheimer’s associate during the hack, to court.

They were eventually charged under the 1984 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), the same law used to prosecute late activist Aaron Swartz. This was a moment of major embarrassment for AT&T.

The CFAA was originally passed in order to punish those that entered government and financial industry computer systems.  However, throughout the years this law has been amended several times in order to keep up with internet and technology developments

Some have stated that the CFAA is now being used by the United States government to intimidate journalists, activists and security researchers with long prison sentences.

Aaron Swartz, for instance, faced 35 years in prison for downloading 4.8 million documents from the subscription-based academic research database JSTOR in 2011.

Think about that for a moment, getting 35 years in jail for downloading a bunch of academic documents illegally?

In the vast realm of the internet, how many of us have downloaded something illegally? It is scary to realize that some could get years in prison for downloading a movie or a song illegally.

If the government decided to prosecute every person that illegally downloaded something, the United States government could gain a great deal of power over people. Rights can be taken away in a moment due to an illegal download.

Or even worse, the government could take away the rights of all since too many have broken the law.

The CFAA is considered by many to be too vague since no one really knows what “unauthorized access” of a computer is. The government, if it wanted to, could twist this into almost anything.

Auernheimer wanted to alert AT&T to the presence of its flaw by exposing it to Gawker. A huge corporation like AT&T is usually too proud to admit a mistake when a user comes to it in private.

What happened to Auernheimer could happen to a whole lot of internet users, as it now seems that the government thinks it’s a crime to collect email addresses.

Aren’t there a lot of sites out there that collect a lot of email addresses? Why charge Auernheimer? He is not the first to collect a vast amount of emails.

This only became a major issue because a big corporation like AT&T led the charge.

Had Auernheimer collected emails from a vastly smaller site, would the government have gone after them as they did and get him charged under the CFAA?

The CFAA is extremely valuable when you think about it. It is not valuable to the average internet user, but it’s extremely valuable to huge corporations seeking to cover up their mistakes and blame it on a scapegoat like Auernheimer.

Instead of blaming someone else for a mistake you made, why not fix the problem? Corporations don’t want to go that way and even as they keep on making mistakes, they keep on chugging along when they have a useful tool like the CFAA by their side.

In today’s America, we have a lot of problems. Prosecuting internet users under the CFAA should be the least of their concerns.

Why waste money going after internet users when we have a massive economic situation to solve? It doesn’t make any sense when you think about it.

Also, there is a lot of danger in having something like the CFAA as a chief tool to imprison internet users who might seem unsavory to some.

Since it’s so vague, the CFAA can be used against people for just collecting emails or something similar that doesn’t hurt people. Even worse, it could be used to control a massive number of Americans since so many people have done illegal things on the internet.

In a free America, we wouldn’t need laws like the CFAA at all since they limit more than protect.

Edited by End the Lie

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5 Responses to The dangers of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

  1. ARIZONA March 25, 2013 at 2:06 AM

    AT some point in time,these criminal judges and prosicuting attorneys ,along with the police gangs are going to be delth with,None of them are going by the constitution,the judges watch as government agents steal BILLIONS of tax payer dollars and do nothing,yet some one like these guys get years in prison,and the prisons are filled with non-criminals and pot smokers,costing tax payers millions of wasted dollars,I really don’t know who is stupider,the court system or the tax payers who allow IT….BUT I can tell none of you care by your actions,SOON mass death will sweep america,and I was just doing my job, will be understood to be a guilty to treason plea,your choice…………………

    Reply
  2. ARIZONA March 25, 2013 at 2:19 AM

    THE LORD has said,A house cleaning is coming ,HE says the entire government is rotten to the core from top to bottom,many americans commit treason everyday as part of the job their doing and could care less if the children in the future DON’T HAVE ONE,this is coming to an end,and its going to be the worse bloodbath the world has ever seen,BUT to not care if your children don’t have a future is demonic,this tells me the government aren’t humans their all demons from hell,real humans love their children,its called natural affection,THIS don’t exist in government employees,there happy to kill their own family,insanity is sweeping america,and its all in government ,america has been taken over by demons from hell…………………..

    Reply
  3. ARIZONA March 25, 2013 at 2:31 AM

    ALL you government types will be happy to know,WE’RE approching NIBIRU,when we pass it, the whole world is going to change,and I would BET the paper on my Harley none of you have a ticket for the underground cities where it will be safe,YOU’LL be up here with us……………….

    Reply
  4. Gary May 24, 2013 at 5:08 AM

    @ARIZONA,I CAN HARDLY WAIT!

    Reply
  5. Marchel Poore January 8, 2014 at 6:00 AM

    I have been browsing online greater than three hours these days, but I never discovered any fascinating article like yours. It’s beautiful value sufficient for me. In my opinion, if all web owners and bloggers made good content as you did, the web might be much more helpful than ever before.

    Reply

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