In today’s day and age, there are multiple opportunities for your email, social media or other accounts to be hacked. While hacking carries with it the connotation of some underground or black hat actor in some far, far away land, the reality is that hacking issues may crop up in various forms. One particular area that is regularly the subject of discussion surrounds the unauthorized access to another’s email account, emails and attachments to those emails. This fact scenario may arise in an employer and employee relationship, in a divorce case or in some other kind of business or commercial transaction. So if you believe that your email has been hacked or there has been some kind of unauthorized access, you need an internet lawyer to review and analyze so as to be in position to advise.
There are multiple criminal and civil statutes that may be applicable. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), 18 USC 1030, is one that requires there be an intentional access to a computer without authorization or in excess of any authorization, so as to allow the person accessing it to obtain information from a protected computer so long as the conduct involves interstate communication. The CFAA has been interpreted both narrowly and broadly by courts throughout the United States, and therefore it is important to understand the facts in order to advise as to its applicability. Nevertheless, there are damage thresholds, as well as statute of limitations, that should always be at the forefront of your mind in the event that you have been subject to an unauthorized access issue.
Another option may be available via the Stored Communications Act (SCA), 18 USC 2701. Similar to the CFAA, the SCA has its own requirements, namely that there be an intentional access without authorization to a facility through which an electronic communication service is provided or that the access intentionally exceeds authorization. As a result, the person with access obtains, alters or prevents authorized access to a wire or electronic communication while it is in electronic storage in such a system. Like the CFAA, the SCA provides for both civil and criminal relief. It also allows for recovery of actual damages, punitive damages for willful or intentional access, as well as costs and attorney fees.
The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), 18 USC 2510, may also be applicable so long as there is a qualifying interception of an email message during the course of transmission.
State laws, including the Uniform Trade Secrets Act (UTSA) and other statutes or common laws may also be applicable in the event of an unauthorized access to an email account. Put simply, if you believe that you have been subject to an unauthorized access to email offense, it will be important to document and be able to explain to an Internet lawyer your issues so that he or she may determine which of the above causes of action may be applicable, if any.