If I make a program which is unquestionably intended for other people to use to gain unauthorized access to a network, but I do not use the program myself except on my own network for testing, have I committed a crime? Can I be charged with cooperating to commit a crime?

1 Answer 1


18 USC 1039(a)(9) states (italics added) that whoever

knowingly uses, produces, traffics in, has control or custody of, or possesses hardware or software, knowing it has been configured to insert or modify telecommunication identifying information associated with or contained in a telecommunications instrument so that such instrument may be used to obtain telecommunications service without authorization

"shall, if the offense affects interstate or foreign commerce, be punished". I would imagine that whatever your program does to gain access, that satisfies the requirements of this statute.

18 USC 1030(a)(5) also criminalizes producing a program that damages a computer. You might think that simply looking does not cause damage. DOJ has a different view, observing p. 46 that "In the wake of seemingly minor intrusions, the entire computer system is often audited, for instance, to ensure that viruses, back-doors, or other harmful codes have not been left behind or that data has not been altered or copied". They note that this theory has not been applied to criminal cases. If you work alone, there is no conspiracy, but if you conspire with Smith to gain illegal access to a computer, you would have run afoul of 18 USC 371.

  • Surely so called "white hat" hacking is exempt in some way. Maybe they have to have a licence or something. Their job is hacking, specifically to find holes in security before someone else does. This surely includes programs specifically made for hacking. So I bet these guys are always making bat files and such, which are programs that hack.
    – user608
    Mar 14, 2016 at 7:33

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