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The JMK bLAWg

Protecting Critical Company Data in the 21st Century

Protecting Critical Company Data in the 21st Century

If you are a business owner, your worst nightmare is likely having a trusted employee steal client lists and other valuable company data and use that information for their own self-interested purpose. Unfortunately, this nightmare is a frequent reality for many in the digital age. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), originally promulgated by the federal government to combat external hacking of company servers, now provides legal remedies to employers who have been victimized by employee insider data-poaching.

The CFAA imposes criminal and/or civil penalties against a person who “knowingly and with intent to defraud, accesses a protected computer without authorization, or exceeds authorized access.” 18 U.S.C. § 1030(a)(3). Currently, the federal circuits have split on their interpretation of this language and its application in the workplace. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals (governing the interpretation of federal law in Wisconsin) has taken an employer-friendly approach to the CFAA. In Wisconsin, any material breaches of an employee’s duty of loyalty to an employer in connection with company data and electronic client lists may subject the offending employee to the criminal and civil sanction provisions of the CFAA. For more information regarding the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and its impact on the workplace in Wisconsin, see Not Authorized! Employees and Computer Fraud, published in the June 2016 edition of the Wisconsin Lawyer by Barbara A. Neider & Joseph Diedrich.

If you are a business owner who believes a current or former employee has abused their access to confidential company data, it is important that you seek a qualified attorney to navigate the complexities associated with the CFAA. John M. Kelly, Attorney at Law, LLC has 42 years of experience in the area of business and employment law, ranging from the drafting of employment contracts to the resolution of workplace disputes. Contact Attorney Kelly today for all of your employment law needs.