“Authorization” in the Context of Computer Crimes

I previously wrote a blog post about North Carolina’s computer-related crime statutes. Two of our computer crimes are accessing computers under G.S. 14-454 and accessing government computers under G.S. 14-454.1. Both statutes prohibit willfully accessing computers for the purpose of committing fraud or obtaining property or services by false pretenses. Both statutes also prohibit unauthorized access to computers, regardless of fraudulent intent. G.S. 14-453 defines authorization as having the consent or permission of the owner—or of the person licensed or authorized by the owner to grant consent or permission—to access a computer, computer system, or computer network in a manner not exceeding the consent or permission. I’ve gotten several questions recently about the scope of unauthorized access under these statutes, and today’s post examines how these laws may be applied.

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