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10/14/2016
11:30 AM
Sara Peters
Sara Peters
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Happy 30th Birthday CFAA!

Six things we still don't know about the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act after all this time.
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What does without authorization mean?

The thorn in my side every day what we dont know, and weve never known, is what authorization means, says Nate Cardozo, senior staff attorney of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

For 30 years there have been attempts to make metaphors to the physical world: is a vulnerability scan more like looking at a house from the street, or more like peeking through the windows, or more like jimmying the door to see if its locked? Also, we cant automate lock-jimmying in the same way we can automate vulnerability scanning (unless perhaps you start including home security cameras in the mix), so the metaphors break down.

The trouble with without authorization is that online, people may stumble onto data and resources they were not given permission to see compromising photos, PII databases, sensitive intellectual property, etc. However, those people werent always trying to access those items; they just happened upon them because those resources were poorly secured. Should someone be punished for someone elses bad security? And how does one assume they were given or not given authorization to certain resources anyway?

Cardozo recommends the language of CFAA be updated to reflect the fact that in order to violate the law you must actively circumvent a technical barrier in order to obtain that unauthorized access.

(Image by wk1003mike, via Shutterstock)

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