Hacking by subpoena ruled illegal

Monday, 1 September 2003, 3:10 PM EST

Issuing an egregiously overbroad subpoena for stored e-mail qualifies as a computer intrusion in violation of anti-hacking laws, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday, deciding a case in which a litigant in a civil matter subpoenaed every single piece of e-mail his courtroom adversary sent or received.

Alwyn Farey-Jones was embroiled in commercial litigation with two officers of Integrated Capital Associates (ICA) when he instructed his attorney, Iryna Kwasny, to send a subpoena to the company's Internet service provider -- California-based NetGate. Under federal civil rules, a litigant can issue such a subpoena without prior approval from the court, but is required to "take reasonable steps to avoid imposing undue burden or expense" on the recipient.

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