The Doors Are Locked but the Thieves and Vandals Are Still Getting In: A Proposal in Tort to Alleviate Corporate America's Cyber-Crime Problem


David L. Gripman


VOL. XVI • Fall 1997 • NO. 1 (table of contents)

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16 John Marshall J. of Comp. & Info. Law 167


This article addresses the problem of computer hackers, breaking into the computer systems of businesses, and the third party injuries that are ultimately caused by such acts. This is a multimillion dollar problem for the business community.

The article discusses the current methods companies use to protect against hackers, and then the author makes some suggestions for protection that include the latest technology available. However, the paper's main focus is on ways to put pressure on businesses to ensure that its computers are protected against hackers to avoid third party injuries. The author looks to tort law to do just that.

Under tort law, the hacker would be liable in trespass against the company, but the company would be liable, under negligence, for any injuries the hacker caused a third party. For example, if the hacker was able to delete a customer's order from a supplier's computer file, the customer could hold the supplier liable for any damages it sustained by not receiving its order. The negligence theory is based on the fact that the supplier should have installed the necessary equipment (hardware and software) to prevent the hackers from invading its computer system. Also, because the supplier did not have the necessary protection on its computer system, it should have known that such an act was likely to occur, and, therefore, guarded against it.

The paper also discusses how companies should deal with intercompany hackers, such as terminated employees. The author suggests that terminated employees be walked out, and any security access they had should be addressed immediately.

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