Massachusetts Computer Crime Law

In 1995, the Massachusetts State Legislature passed a bill that remedied several holes in regards to computer crime.  Prior to the enacting of this law, computer crimes were limiting to the removal of data from a system without authorization; hacking (damaging data and "snooping") were not prohibited and therefore were not punishable by law. The Massachusetts Computer Crime Bill effectively closed this hole by providing three key provisions:

  • The law prohibits unauthorized access to any computer system, directly or by network or telephone.  The law states that password authorization to control access is warning that any use without a legitimate password will be defined as unauthorized access.
  • The law defines electronically stored or processed data as "property", under the criminal vandalism statute. Destruction or corruption of any such property is vandalism, and punishable as such.
  • The law prohibits the theft of commercial computer service.

Additionally, the law improved the Commonwealth's procedural law, making prosecution of computer related offenses easier, while decreasing disruption of legitimate business.  Prior to the law, business whose systems had been violated faced the prospect of their systems being seized as evidence; and if prosecutors found that original files were evidence, law required the originals be presented in court.  This caused many businesses to be less likely to prosecuting the offense. The new law allows for electronic copies to be admissible, which allows business to continue operations uninterupted. It also contains provisions that prosecution and punishment could take place at either the place where the perpetrator was physically located or where the computer system that was accessed was physically located. A hacker in Massachusetts accessing files in another state could face prosecution in Massachusetts.  A hacker in another state accessing files in Massachusetts could also face prosecution in Massachusetts.