I am interested in computers and want to pursue this interest further by getting my education in programming and security. I've only just started so I'm scared that I might break some law that was not obvious to me and get into some trouble. It is not my intention to break the law like so many juvenile computer hackers intend on doing for kicks, or what have you.

The question is, where can I find the laws on computer/internet use for the U.S.A.?

2 Answers 2


You won't find any such single comprehensive document that compiles all potentially relevant rules and regulations.

I'd suggest familiarizing yourself with the provisions of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act as a starting point. Researching the Aaron Swartz case will get you some fairly recent journalistic accounts of the law, how it's applied, and calls for reform.

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    As an aside, if your concern is how to learn pen testing without the potential of blundering into a technical CFAA violation by escalating your privileges on a VPS or something like that, the most obvious way would be to create your own small lab network of VMs to attack.
    – daffy
    Commented Jul 19, 2015 at 17:17
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    Also, to research case law on any matter, you can use Google Scholar: scholar.google.com.
    – moonman239
    Commented Nov 18, 2015 at 3:53

Ensuring that you are compliant with all laws is a notorious problem. For example, nobody has successfully enumerated even the number of criminal laws under the U.S. (federal) code!

There's a book that delves into this problem called 3 Felonies a Day. The title alludes to the (unverifiable) suggestion that a typical person unwittingly commits three felonies a day. (There is some discussion of that claim on Skeptics.SE ... and regular amusement published at https://twitter.com/CrimeADay.)

In practice, you can look for safe harbors. Obtaining and following the advice of a licensed lawyer offers some indemnification. For example, if you are part of an institution you can vet your planned activities with its ethics and/or legal counsel. If those activities are later found to have violated a law then that approval could conceivably (but not certainly) transfer liability to the institution.

  • One reason why you can't count laws (or regulations) is that "a law" isn't a discrete unit. For example if the code says "if you do X or Y, you are a violator", is that one law or two? Often, these things are structures as "if you do any of [some scope] then something else", which eventually leads to punishment.
    – user6726
    Commented Mar 26, 2017 at 16:18

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