What equivalent do ordinary US citizens have in terms of digital protectionss, as the US government and its financial interests have as defined in the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act?


1 Answer 1


The US CFAA is by no means limited to "the US government and its financial interests ". It currently applies to any computer which is "protected". 18 USC § 1030(e)(2) defines a "protected computer" as (in part):

a computer ... (B) which is used in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce or communication, including a computer located outside the United States that is used in a manner that affects interstate or foreign commerce or communication of the United States

This covers any computer connected to the internet.

18 USC § 1030 (a)(2) (C) applies to anyone who obtains without authorization :

information from any protected computer;

Of course, nothing requires federal prosecutors to bring charges for all acts which technically violate this sub-section. If someone hacks another person's holiday card address list, I doubt if a CFAA prosecution would be brought, but it could be if the US Attorney thought fit.

  • 1
    How can you say that 18 USC § 1030(e)(2)(B) covers any computer connected to the internet, isn't that a bit broad? Wouldn't that require that the computer is specifically involved with interstate/foreign commerce or interstate/foreign communication? What if there was a private citizen's network with no external internet communication, just a LAN FTP server. If someone were to gain unauthorized access to it, would that not fall outside the realm of your comment? Oct 9, 2022 at 22:49
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    @Justin Riley No, In intrastate commerce cases, mere access to communication channels that are used for interstate commerce has been held to enable federal regulation. Besides which, any computer actually used for web access almost surely receives some packets that have moved interstate. Oct 9, 2022 at 23:10
  • @JustinRiley Most reasonable people would think that, but SCOTUS was cut from a different cloth when they ruled in Wickard v Filburn. Oct 10, 2022 at 12:32
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    @JustinRiley, if, as you posit, a computer were connected only to a private network that did not afford access to the Internet, then yes, that would fall outside the scope of this answer. Explicitly so, because this answer says "any computer connected to the internet" (emphasis added). Oct 10, 2022 at 13:50
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    Yes, @user253751, but that is equivalent to the quoted item (B): "a computer ... (B) which is used in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce or communication". That's not an arbitrary limitation, but rather an explicit expression of the bounds of Congress's authority. Perhaps even a bit more than Congress's authority, taken on its own. Oct 10, 2022 at 13:57

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