High Court Clarifies What is Considered “Protectable Interest” Under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

March 14, 2023

Van Buren v. United States is a recent Supreme Court case that addresses the issue of what constitutes a “protectable interest” under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). The case is significant because it clarifies the scope of the CFAA and its application to computer-related crimes.

In Van Buren, the Supreme Court held that the CFAA’s prohibition against unauthorized access to protected computers does not extend to individuals who have been given authorized access to those computers but then use that access to obtain information in violation of an employer’s computer use policies. The Court found that the CFAA’s prohibition on unauthorized access applies only to those who have not been given authorized access to a computer, and not to those who have been given authorized access but then misuse it.

The Court’s decision in Van Buren is important because it limits the scope of the CFAA and its application to computer-related crimes. The decision will have a significant impact on the ability of law enforcement agencies to prosecute cases involving computer misuse, as it sets a clear standard for when an individual’s actions constitute a violation of the CFAA.

Additionally, the decision will have a significant impact on the ability of companies to protect against the unauthorized use of their computer systems. The ruling clarifies that the CFAA is not intended to be a general-purpose computer-misuse statute and it limits companies’ ability to use the CFAA to pursue employees for violating internal computer-use policies.

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