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This question is not about the initial crime of computer hacking, but rather whether a person who acquires private data from the hacker has committed a crime.

There is a curious footnote in the famous Mueller report, where apparently the investigators are contemplating potential federal violations for receiving "hacked" digital data. The footnote (page 176) follows:

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Intuitively, the average person, would anticipate that private digital information (for example banking passwords, credit card security codes, ATM and debit card passwords, etc) would fall under the notion of personal property, and thus trafficking (sale and resale) of such data would be subject to prosecution.

However, this footnote seems to suggest that, because the data is intangible, it is not considered stolen property, consequently non-prosecutable.

Have I understood this correctly? Are there other laws that apply to digital data that has been stolen?

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There are many state and federal laws that apply to digital data such as credit card numbers, bank account numbers, social security numbers, etc. because while that data may be "intangible" in a traditional sense - such as the difference between a hard copy letter and an email of the same text - the difference is the potential monetary value of a bank account or card number or full social security number-based identity.

See 18 U.S. Code Chapter 63 - MAIL FRAUD AND OTHER FRAUD OFFENSES | U.S. Code for bank fraud, wire fraud, etc. Search a relevant state for that code and laws.

Depending on state jurisdiction and federal law, there can be differences in simply possessing such data, selling or transferring the information and/or actually using it for fraud. But all you have to do is read the news and you'll see that bank and card fraud is very prevalent and is prosecuted.

Banks and credit card companies and prosecutors can't possibly go after all fraud due to manpower and simple math that makes much of it not worth the effort to pursue; much credit card and identity theft fraud is refunded to the customer and taken as a loss to the bank.

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  • d/v b/c - you missed the point: the entity I am asking about is NOT the one who stole or copied proprietary information, nor the one who actually commits a fraud (by emptying your back acct -as an example). Rather I am asking about intermediaries, entities who traffick in the information. The assessment by the Federal prosecutors (above) suggest that there is no violation because the data is "intangible" and not covered by NSPA. As well, the issue of "potential monetary value" is not at issue here. – BobE May 6 '19 at 14:40
  • Read "Depending on state jurisdiction and federal law, there can be differences in simply possessing such data, selling or transferring the information and/or actually using it for fraud." And "potential monetary value" is one of the differences between emails and credit card numbers. – BlueDogRanch May 6 '19 at 14:47
  • @BlueDog- for the moment let's focus on Federal law, as that was the extents of Mueller's footnote. Is there a federal law that criminalizes the possession purloined information (that exists in a digital format) - and does that law make a distinction monetary value and non-monetary value. – BobE May 6 '19 at 15:20

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