Average person convicted as a Hacker convicted for hacking
David Nosal after a short two week trial was convicted today by a law designed to prosecute hackers even though his crimes should not be considered hacking as it is traditionally defined.
Although he never touched a computer from the victim firm, he was charged with crimes including hacking and stealing confidential information. Nosal has yet to be sentenced and probably will remain in prison for a very long time.
The Jurors, who were able to decide their verdict in two days
Condemned the sharply dressed and grim faced businessman on all counts with a straight “guilty” verdict.
The defense team urged US District Judge Edward Chen to dismiss the verdict. The Judge called to have another hearing within the year.
Defense lawyer Steven Gruel shared his legal arguments to the press, saying that the counts can’t stand.
The case of Nosal portrayed a unique interpretation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. In 2011, this same law was used to charge activist-programmer Aaron Swartz, who founded the online group Demand Progress. Swartz systematically downloaded academic articles from JSTOR. Swartz, due to the pressures of a possible 35 year imprisonment, a maximum of one million dollars in penalties and other fines, hanged himself. This sparked the need for reform in hacking laws.
Nosal in the other hand did not do any traditional form of hacking. He was found to have won over fellow employees from the victim firm with words and bribery so he could obtain valuable information to start a similar rival business. In the end, those same employees helped convict Nosal to evade accessory charges.
The law questioned by defense lawyers was made so that governments would be able to go after hackers who use computers for robbing information and damaging computers. The penalty per violation bears a maximum of 5 year prison term.
There is a likelihood that the current case will reach the Supreme Court as a precedent needs to be set regarding this kind of questionable prosecution.
In 2005, Nosal was already suspected of misusing his work privileges to create his own business that would be able to rival his then employer Korn/Ferry. The courts sided with Nosal stating that employees cannot be prosecuted for violation of policies involving computer use.
People who have aided hackers by giving them login credentials have been prosecuted under this law. One former social media editor was found to leak such information to anonymous members and encouraged them to sow some chaos in that rival media organization.
Two hackers were convicted recently in California for hacking into e-mail accounts and trying to blackmail its owners. One was sentenced to 2 years in prison and the other for 4 years.
The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act has been used to prosecute traditional hackers but this instance shows that even non-hackers are not safe from hacking related prosecution.
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