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In 1984, the first U.S. Federal Computer Crime Act, the U.S. Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, was passed. This intermediate act was narrowly defined and somewhat ambiguous. The law covers

  • Classified national defense or foreign relations information
  • Financial or credit reference bureau records
  • Government computer

The US Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986 improves and reinforces the 1984 Act to refine definitions of criminal fraud and abuse for federal computer crimes and remove obstacles to law enforcement.

The law established two new crimes for Unauthorized Access by Federal Interest Computers and an Offense for Unauthorized Trafficking in Computer Passwords:

  • Crime 1: Unauthorized access or access beyond the authorization of a computer by federal interest to encourage intentional fraud is a criminal offense [subsection (a) (4)].
  • Felony 2: Altering, damaging, or destroying information in a federally owned computer or preventing authorized use of the computer or information that causes a total loss of $ 1,000 or more in a year or potentially interferes with medical treatment is a criminal offense [subsection ( a) (5)].

This provision has been deleted in its entirety and replaced by a more general provision that we will discuss later in this section.

  • Administrative offenses: Trafficking computer passwords or similar information when it interferes with international or foreign trade or allows unauthorized access to computers used by or on behalf of the US Government [subsection (a) (6)].

The law defines a federal interest computer (in fact, the term was changed to Protected Computer in the 1996 amendments to the law) as either a computer

"[E] solely for the use of any financial institution or the United States government, or, in the case of a computer not intended for such use, by or for any financial institution or the United States government and the conduct that the Constitutes criminal offense, affect use by or on behalf of the financial institution or government "

"[W] what is used in interstate or foreign trade or communication"

Several minor changes to U.S. computer fraud and abuse laws were made in 1988, 1989, and 1990, and more significant changes were made in 1994, 1996 (through the Industrial Espionage Act of 1996), and 2001 (through the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001) In its current form, the law defines seven specific computer crimes. In addition to the three we discussed in the previous list, these crimes include the following five provisions (we discuss subsection [a] [5] in its current form in the following list):

  • Unauthorized access or access in excess of authorization to a computer resulting in disclosure of United States national defense or international information [subsection (a) (1)].
  • Unauthorized access or access in excess of authorization to a protected computer in order to obtain information on that computer [subsection (a) (2)].
  • Unauthorized access to a protected computer or access, in excess of authorization, to a protected computer that affects the use of that computer by or on behalf of the US Government [subsection (a) (3)].
  • Unauthorized access to a protected computer that causes harm or reckless harm, or the deliberate delivery of malicious code that causes harm to a protected computer [subsection (a) (5) as amended].
  • Transmission of international or international commercial communications that cause damage to a protected computer for the purpose of extortion [subsection (a) (7)].

In the "USA PATRIOT Act of 2001" section later in this chapter, we discuss major changes to the US Computer Fraud and Abuse Act 1986 (as amended) introduced by Congress in 2001.

The US Computer Fraud and Abuse Act 1986 is the major computer crime act currently in force. The CISSP exam will likely test your understanding of the law in its original 1986 form, but you should also be prepared for any revisions of the exam that may cover more recent changes to the law.