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When Is Computer Hacking During a Divorce Illegal?

Categories: Criminal Law & Process

Computer Hacking During a Divorce

Computer Hacking Defense Attorney Defending Divorcees

It is natural for spouses in divorce proceedings or contemplating divorce to feel anger or suspicion toward one another.  While such emotions may tempt individuals to spy on each other by hacking into their spouses’ computers, acting on such urges is never a good idea.  In fact, it is often illegal.  Federal and state electronic privacy laws cover most forms of electronic hacking activity, including hacking between spouses.

Electronic Privacy Laws

The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) (18 U.S.C. § 1030):  The CFAA provides criminal and civil penalties for any unauthorized use of a computer for the purpose of attaining information, acquiring something of value, or causing damage to the computer.  Violation of the CFAA is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.  The CFAA may apply in a divorce case where one spouse uses the other’s computer without authorization to steal information or install damaging spyware.

Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) (18 USC §2510, et seq.):  Under the ECPA, anyone who purposefully intercepts oral or written communications or intrudes upon electronically stored communications may face criminal or civil penalties, including a prison sentence.  The ECPA specifically covers email hacking and would apply where one spouse hacked into the other’s email account without authorization.

State Laws:  Most states have enacted additional electronic privacy laws that would apply in addition to the federal laws.

Specific Examples

  • Installing Spyware on a Spouse’s Computer: Installing Spyware, such as a Keylogger program, to steal passwords or obtain information from a spouse’s computer would be a violation of the CFAA.
  • Accessing a Spouse’s Computer or Email Account by Guessing the Password: Unauthorized access of a computer, a computer program, or an email account is prohibited under the ECPA.  Even if an intrusion is accomplished simply by guessing the correct password and is not facilitated by the use of a malicious program or device, the intrusion may constitute a violation.
  • Checking a Spouse’s Text Messages or Call Logs: Unauthorized access of a telephone or of text messages or call logs may constitute a violation of the ECPA.
  • Secretly Recording Phone Conversations with a Third Party: Recording a spouse’s conversation with a third party without prior authorization would constitute a violation of the ECPA.
  • Logging into a Spouse’s Online Accounts: Even if both spouses have access to a computer, it violates the CFAA for one spouse to use that computer to log into the other’s online accounts (i.e. an online banking account) without permission.

Experienced Litigation & Criminal Defense Attorneys

Oberheiden & McMurrey, LLP has substantial experience prosecuting and defending privacy and hacking litigation cases. Our attorneys, many of whom are former federal prosecutors, have appeared in state and federal courts in eavesdropping, interception, and hacking cases and have handled emergency litigations, divorce pleadings, and other situations involving hacking occurrences.

  • Nick Oberheiden has successfully represented executives, business owners, public officials, physicians, lawyers, and other individuals in high profile litigations, government investigations, and local and national media campaigns. Dr. Oberheiden is trained and certified in negotiations and dispute resolutions by Harvard Law School and he holds a Ph.D. in law as well as a Juris Doctor from UCLA Law School.
  • Lynette S. Byrd focuses her practice on civil and criminal litigation, Medicare and insurance audits, and general advice and counseling in health care law. She is a former Assistant United States Attorney with years of substantial trial experience under her belt who merges excellent litigation skills with profound understanding of the law.

  • Elizabeth K. Stepp, a graduate of Yale Law School, has spent her career handling complex litigations in courts across the United States. Clients appreciate Ms. Stepp’s adept and analytical approach to complex problems and her ability to persuade judges and juries of her thoroughly researched arguments.

Hacking Litigation Outcomes

The Oberheiden & McMurrey, LLP routinely advises clients and other lawyers in state and federal cases involving interception of data, hacking of computing devices, and privacy law violations. The following are some examples of our recent engagements in hacking cases.

  • Successful Intervention on Behalf of Business Owner. Client Was Exposed to Hacking and Interception. We Obtained Restraining Order and Temporary Injunction and a Permanent Injunction as well as Seizure Orders.
  • Successful Intervention on Behalf of Physician. Client Was Exposed to Hacking and Interception. We Obtained Restraining Order. Opposing Party Immediately Settled.
  • Successful Intervention on Behalf of Executive. Client Was Exposed to Hacking and Interception. We Obtained Restraining Order. Opposing Party Immediately Settled.
  • Successful Intervention on Behalf of Physician. Obtained Restraining Order Against Ex-Spouse Interfering with Client’s Current Job and Falsely Reporting Ethical Violations.
  • Successful Intervention on Behalf of Business Owner. Opposing Party Settled Instantly After Our Firm Announced its Appearance.
  • Successful Intervention on Behalf of Business Owner. Case Was Filed in U.S. Federal Court. All Illegal Activities Ceased When Our Firm Made an Appearance in the Case.
  • Successful Intervention on Behalf of Healthcare Client Regarding Theft of Patient Files. Case Settled and Files Were Returned Immediately After Our Firm Made an Appearance.
  • Successful Defense of Client Against Potential HIPAA Violation. Case Ended with No Civil and No Criminal Liability for Our Client.
  • Successful Defense of Client Against Potential HIPAA Violation. Case Ended with No Civil and No Criminal Liability for Our Client.
  • Successful Representation of Client in Massive Data Breach. Case Ended with No Civil and No Criminal Liability for Our Client.

Questions about hacking? Call our experienced attorneys and discuss your case in a free and confidential consultation.

Oberheiden & McMurrey, LLP
(800) 810-0259
www.federal-lawyer.com
This information has been prepared for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. This information may constitute attorney advertising in some jurisdictions. Reading of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship. Prior results do not guarantee similar future outcomes. Oberheiden & McMurrey, LLP is a Texas LLP with headquarters in Dallas. Mr. Oberheiden limits his practice to federal law.
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