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Court Rules Sending Too Many Emails Is "Hacking"

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the if-you-send-it-more-than-twice-your-hacking-it dept.

The Courts 317

An anonymous reader writes "An appeals court has ruled that having people send a company a lot of emails (in this case, a union protesting a company's business practices) qualifies as hacking under the Computer Fraud & Abuse Act. We're not even talking about a true DDoS action here, but just a bunch of protest emails. Part of the problem is that the company apparently set up their email to only hold a small number of emails in their inbox, and the court seems to think the union should take the blame for stuffing those inboxes."

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317 comments

Got it wrong in one (4, Insightful)

arth1 (260657) | more than 2 years ago | (#37047482)

The "problem" is that hacking and disrupting services is governed by the same laws, without much distinction. And it is disrupting services if the sender knew about or had reason to know about the limitation of the recipient.

Re:Got it wrong in one (5, Insightful)

LateArthurDent (1403947) | more than 2 years ago | (#37047576)

The "problem" is that hacking and disrupting services is governed by the same laws, without much distinction. And it is disrupting services if the sender knew about or had reason to know about the limitation of the recipient.

No, no it's not. If the limitation of the recipient is an unreasonable limitation, you can't blame the union. If they were using a bot to mass-spam them with the intention of crashing their systems, I'd agree with you. Manual protest e-mails are a valid form of a communication with the company. If we allow considering this "disruption of services", companies will start having crappy e-mail systems on purpose just so they have the option open to sue people.

Re:Got it wrong in one (2)

arth1 (260657) | more than 2 years ago | (#37047728)

No, no it's not. If the limitation of the recipient is an unreasonable limitation, you can't blame the union.

If they knew about it, and exploited it to cause an outage, yes, I both can and think I should blame them.

This is slashdot, so an obligatory car analogy:
If I have told you that the company car has an overheating problem, so please don't drive it at high revs, and you wilfully drive it at low gear until the engine breaks, you are to blame. Whether I should have fixed it or not is irrelevant - you knew about it and wilfully chose to ignore it in order to cause damage.

Intent is what matters here. Was the Union's intent good? The judge doesn't seem to think so.

Re:Got it wrong in one (4, Interesting)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 2 years ago | (#37047930)

Then what of the slashdot effect? What really is *normal*? If we post this, then crater their website, are we guilty, too? I think not. If they can't do the normal thing and empty their mailboxes in a reasonable manner, then the onus is on the company. The judge will have his ruling overturned.

Re:Got it wrong in one (1)

hilldog (656513) | more than 2 years ago | (#37048038)

Good point but my question would be what if the barrage of emails were ongoing and almost non-stop? Would that not constitute a willful 'mail bombing' with intent to shutdown their email server? If they are not able to, as you say "empty their mailboxes in a reasonable manner," then the intent is to do harm.

Re:Got it wrong in one (1)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 2 years ago | (#37048216)

Yet there are no standards of behavior for either. You could be slothlike and lead to your own systems crash through inattention.

OTOH, the union might have intentionally overloaded the email system, causing it to crash. I don't have the evidence needed and am not a judge; rather there are no standards of behavior that would pass the "preponderance of evidence" and "guilty beyond a reasonable doubt" given the info in the post.

Re:Got it wrong in one (2)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | more than 2 years ago | (#37048106)

Then what of the slashdot effect?

Generally speaking, a /. article involves lots of people doing 1 thing (loading the page) a few times because it isn't loading due to volume.

The union specifically told people to send emails, multiple emails, keep sending them so that they are overloaded. That's close enough to a DDOS to me. If a spammer told his bot army to send emails to someone such that it crashed their email server, how is that different than this?

They weren't really trying to get responses. If the union said "Contact the company and ask them X" and people independently did so multiple times, fine it's an employee's right to ask their employer questions. It's a far different story for the union to organize a protest that disrupts business. Striking/picket lines likewise are not allowed to prevent people from accessing the business. Sure they do, but that is clearly illegal.

Re:Got it wrong in one (1)

LateArthurDent (1403947) | more than 2 years ago | (#37047950)

If I have told you that the company car has an overheating problem, so please don't drive it at high revs, and you wilfully drive it at low gear until the engine breaks, you are to blame.

That analogy is equivalent to using a bot to mass spam them, which I already agreed with you would be a real issue. Nobody drives at a low gear for the entire trip. On the other hand, if I'm driving that car normally, and the car breaks down, even if I put it at high revs (reasonably high, not red-lining it) while accelerating during the normal course of my driving, and even if I was warned not to do that, they sure as hell can't blame me for breaking an already defective car.

Re:Got it wrong in one (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37048184)

The company car analogy doesn't work, cuz it would have had to have been stolen first before it could be driven at high speeds causing the overheating issue.
The thieve would not have known it had an overheating problem.

Any reasonable laptop manufactured within the last 5 years could be configured as an e-mail server and hold thousands of e-mails without issue.
Servers would be hundreds of thousands. If it went tits up over a few hundred then it was intentionally misconfigured to cause said outage.

If said e-mail server were to suddenly get inundated with orders via e-mail, is the company going to sue it's customers for hacking?

I don't think so.

Appeal and sue the prosecutor for falsifying charges.

Re:Got it wrong in one (1)

Ngarrang (1023425) | more than 2 years ago | (#37047844)

If we allow considering this "disruption of services", companies will start having crappy e-mail systems on purpose just so they have the option open to sue people.

You mean, more people will switch to Exchange? Bite your tongue!

Re:Got it wrong in one (1)

SmurfButcher Bob (313810) | more than 2 years ago | (#37048028)

No... your premise demands that the generic public has any rights whatsoever with respect to YOUR hardware. You are under ZERO obligation to facilitate me sending you 50TB of crapflood. In fact, you are under ZERO obligation to facilitate me sending you one single LEGIT byte.

More appropriate would be that If the action of the sender is a reasonable act, you cannot blame the sender.

Deliberate mailbombing is not usually considered reasonable. That mailboxes hit quota is of little merit, other than icing on the "impact" cake. Insert Hitler anecdote as needed.

Re:Got it wrong in one (1)

rgviza (1303161) | more than 2 years ago | (#37048080)

"intent" is a very important legal concept. hopefully the judge agrees.

Re:Got it wrong in one (2)

DeadCatX2 (950953) | more than 2 years ago | (#37048130)

If they were using a bot to mass-spam them with the intention of crashing their systems, I'd agree with you.

They did in fact use an outside robo-dialer to flood the phone system with voice mails. http://computerfraud.us/articles/can-a-labor-union-be-sued-under-the-computer-fraud-and-abuse-act-for-spamming-an-employer%E2%80%99s-voice-and-email-systems [computerfraud.us]

Re:Got it wrong in one (1)

Psychotria (953670) | more than 2 years ago | (#37047586)

What if the individual senders didn't know or have reason to know about the limitation of the recipient? I know when I send an email I don't think to myself "hmm, I wonder how big their inbox is and if it's full?... Maybe I'd better ring them before sending the email to make sure there's room".

Re:Got it wrong in one (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 2 years ago | (#37047636)

What if the individual senders didn't know or have reason to know about the limitation of the recipient? I know when I send an email I don't think to myself "hmm, I wonder how big their inbox is and if it's full?... Maybe I'd better ring them before sending the email to make sure there's room".

But we're not talking about a single e-mail. We're talking about thousands. Would you send someone a thousand e-mails without first checking whether they could receive them, or if you knew they couldn't handle them?

It's all about intent, and in this case the intent appears to have been to disrupt their service. That's a crime, no matter whether the e-mail server could have been set up better.

Re:Got it wrong in one (2)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 2 years ago | (#37047674)

It's no different than a letter writing campaign.

When groups organise one it disrupts service as people have to sift through the piles of envelopes for normal business letters yet that's not illegal.

You'd just spouting the standard "it's different on a computer" bullshit.

Re:Got it wrong in one (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37047986)

The union used an automated mailing system to send thousands of emails to a few email addresses... It wasn't only a bunch of people sending their own emails. Many emails were "threats and obscenities". The company told the union to stop because it was disrupting their service. The union intentionally continued knowing that it would cause the business problems. It wasn't a protest, it was revenge for firing employees.

Their intent was clear. To disrupt business by hammering the mail servers. That is very similar to a DDOS attack and how it affects a business, (i.e. making resources unavailable).

If the union had no idea that it would kill the mail server then I would agree. But the Union knew and was first asked to stop before litigation.

Re:Got it wrong in one (1)

firex726 (1188453) | more than 2 years ago | (#37048132)

Yea, I think this is basically the same thing, just electronic.

The inbox of both could get stuffed, but you wouldn't see someone getting sued over getting a lot of letters.
Sure there may be a service disruption, but then there would be too for a letter campaign.

Re:Got it wrong in one (3, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#37047686)

Every time you send an email you are checking if they can receive them. Did the mail server sent back 421 or 422 or did it accept the mail?

Re:Got it wrong in one (1)

scubamage (727538) | more than 2 years ago | (#37048006)

I think it received them. This issue appears to be that valid emails either got lost in the shuffle, disrupting business, or else they maxed out their email storage causing valid emails to get bounced. Either way, unless there was malintent on the part of the union, its no different than receiving a few hundred paper letters and either A) crushing all of the valid mail that's already in the mailbox into an unrecognizable form or B) filling up the mailbox so much that new letters can't fit in anymore.

Re:Got it wrong in one (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37047714)

This is not about a person sending thousands of emails, it is about thousands of people sending _one_ email each, and then being punished for it because they committed the crime of being a member of a union.

Re:Got it wrong in one (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 2 years ago | (#37047852)

This is not about a person sending thousands of emails, it is about thousands of people sending _one_ email each, and then being punished for it because they committed the crime of being a member of a union.

No, it's about punishing the ones who told them to do it, knowing fully well that it would cause a disruption. Again, the intent is what matters.

Re:Got it wrong in one (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37047928)

No it's not. It is about an organized attempt to disrupt business by encouraging members to sent multiple e-mails and hiring an autodialing firm to fil up the company voicemail. Most of he emails were sent thru the union mail server. Company lawyers contacted the union and told them the actions were disruption business.

The union continued and a lawsuit resulted. The intent was clear to cause harm, not merely to communicate. Fair ruling.

Re:Got it wrong in one (1)

fafaforza (248976) | more than 2 years ago | (#37047780)

Every employee has a right to contact an employer. It's the employer's job to have a system to allow for that communication. Has it been shown that each one of these employees used a spam bot? If you have thousands of employees, you should be ready for them to contact you, just as you build a bridge strong enough to support nothing but fully loaded tractor trailers from end to end, as, even though it's an unlikely scenario, it could very well happen. What would you have done if the bridge collapsed, complained that the truck drivers should have ascertained the maximum load of the bridge? It's not their task.

Re:Got it wrong in one (1)

_0xd0ad (1974778) | more than 2 years ago | (#37047874)

They hired an auto-dialing service.

Re:Got it wrong in one (1)

scubamage (727538) | more than 2 years ago | (#37048020)

Auto-dialing != email spam. You don't dial to send an email.

Re:Got it wrong in one (1)

_0xd0ad (1974778) | more than 2 years ago | (#37048188)

No, auto-dialing = telephone spam.

fafaforza asked if they used a spam bot. I don't know if they used a spam bot to send e-mails, but do know that they hired an auto-dialer to make phone calls.

Re:Got it wrong in one (1)

Riceballsan (816702) | more than 2 years ago | (#37047850)

What confirms it was intended to disrupt their service. From what I can see it wasn't 1 person sending 1,000 e-mails, it was 1,000 people sending 1 e-mail. By this logic every campaign that has said "Write a letter to your congressman to say you oppose or support ______" is an attempt to disrupt government business. Unless the campaign itself said something like "send as many e-mails as you possibly can to this address" then the campaigns intent was to show how many people were upset.

Re:Got it wrong in one (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 2 years ago | (#37047976)

The difference is that those who organize letters to your congress critter expects his mail staff to be able to handle the mail. The intent is to have the congie realize that "a lot" of people have an opinion on this, strong enough to pay for a letter, envelope and postage.

In this case, the Judge seems to think that the Union who organized the e-mails had the expectation that it would cause service disruption, and thus the intent was bad.

Re:Got it wrong in one (1)

arth1 (260657) | more than 2 years ago | (#37048146)

What confirms it was intended to disrupt their service.

Apart from hiring an auto-dialler service to fill up voice mail boxes and apart from continuing to send e-mails from the LIUNA server after being contacted and told that it disrupted services, you mean?

Re:Got it wrong in one (3, Interesting)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#37047900)

No, *I* wouldn't send them thousands, because that's simply a harassment. However, if I disagree with a company's actions, I might well decide to be one of thousands of people to send them AN email to let them know what I think. It's perfectly valid to ask individuals to let someone (or something in the case of a corporation) know you don't approve of them.

The intent is to communicate and email is for communication, so there is no abuse happening.

Here's a good thought experiment, I post in a /. story that everyone should email their congressman and let them know what they think. Did I just "hack" Congress? Am I assaulting the U.S. government? Or am I exercising my 1st amendment rights, participating in a demopcratic government, and urging others to do the same?

Beyond that, if their email system is such a creaking rust bucket that it can't handle a thousand emails, it was hardly a "sound" system.

Re:Got it wrong in one (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37048228)

My answer to your example:
You are engaging in terrorist activity, because criticizing the government in any way or form disrupts the government from doing it's job. 9/11 could have been avoided had the government not been busy responding to critics all the time. Did you think the terrorists would wait until the government was available to deal with them? Of course not, they went ahead with their plan and flew some planes in some buildings.

6000 people dead because some people said 'hey, let's distract the government from the important task of stopping terrorism, by complaining about George W. Bush'. Keep dissent for campaign periods; once the government is elected, support it, even if you disagree with it, else you're helping terrorism and should be prosecuted for treason.
National Unity should be protected by the law.

Re:Got it wrong in one (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 2 years ago | (#37047738)

The "problem" is that hacking and disrupting services is governed by the same laws, without much distinction. And it is disrupting services if the sender knew about or had reason to know about the limitation of the recipient.

If I size my business related "inbox" to hold no more than 20 emails, should I then be able to have anyone who fills it up arrested and charged?

Of course not.

Public facing email "inboxes" should necessarily be very large. As well there are all sorts of filtering technologies for routing incoming email based on content, subject line, sender, just about anything.

There is no excuse for "email box full" for a business of any real size above mom-and-pop.

What this company really needed to do was learn to manage their email.

But it's clear they lodged legal charges as retaliation against the union.

Think "physical mail". (3, Insightful)

khasim (1285) | more than 2 years ago | (#37047882)

Would the same amount of physical mail result in any legal actions against the union?

No? Then the judge is an idiot.

Does it work the other way 'round? (3, Interesting)

mcmonkey (96054) | more than 2 years ago | (#37047496)

What about a company sending a lot of emails to a person?

Re:Does it work the other way 'round? (5, Insightful)

BitHive (578094) | more than 2 years ago | (#37047530)

A company's actions, as long as they serve its profit motive, are beyond reproach. This article is about a union, which is a whole other story!

Re:Does it work the other way 'round? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37047592)

A company's actions, as long as they serve its profit motive, are beyond reproach.

You sure you don't work for BP?

Re:Does it work the other way 'round? (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | more than 2 years ago | (#37047822)

A company that sent thousands of emails and phone calls per day for a period of days would be in trouble. The issue is not who did it but the volume and intent.

Re:Does it work the other way 'round? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37047988)

So like... every collections agency ever?

It doesn't matter...either way! (1)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 2 years ago | (#37047578)

A company is a person [blogspot.com] by the way...This idea originated [washingtonpost.com] in the 19th century.

Re:It doesn't matter...either way! (2)

denis-The-menace (471988) | more than 2 years ago | (#37047744)

unfortunately a company is now a "super-person"
-immortal
-immoral
-and unaccountable if large enough

Re:It doesn't matter...either way! (1)

Slur (61510) | more than 2 years ago | (#37047894)

Not to mention, 500 feet tall, retarded, childish, selfish, and murderous. Unless constrained.

Re:Does it work the other way 'round? (1)

cashman73 (855518) | more than 2 years ago | (#37047890)

Per a recent US Supreme Court ruling, corporations have the same, and in fact, better, Constitutional rights as individuals. Unions, on the other hand, do not.

I have just three letters for this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37047500)

WTF?

Re:I have just three letters for this... (1)

Cogita (1119237) | more than 2 years ago | (#37047782)

I'm sorry, but my inbox will only accept two letters, so I'm afraid you are guilty of hacking.

This is why Real Names won't work (1)

waddgodd (34934) | more than 2 years ago | (#37047518)

If you can get charged with being one of a thousand emails, the only way to avoid that is being pseudonymous. To put it in a nutshell, shit's about to get fake.

Re:This is why Real Names won't work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37047624)

Because things aren't already fake?

When the Going gets Fake.... (1)

Virtucon (127420) | more than 2 years ago | (#37047740)

When the going gets Fake, the Fake turn pro.

Everyone quick... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37047524)

Don't send emails to your representative!

My Mailbox at Home is Full (5, Funny)

rotide (1015173) | more than 2 years ago | (#37047526)

My physical mailbox at home is kind of small and when I go on vacation it can get full to the point of no longer being able to put more mail in. Do I get to go after Capital One or any/all of the other habitual mail spammers now? If not, why? Because this Act only covers electrons flowing through wires and not physical items physically limiting my mailbox?

Re:My Mailbox at Home is Full (1)

mkkohls (2386704) | more than 2 years ago | (#37047650)

My physical mailbox at home is kind of small and when I go on vacation it can get full to the point of no longer being able to put more mail in. Do I get to go after Capital One or any/all of the other habitual mail spammers now? If not, why? Because this Act only covers electrons flowing through wires and not physical items physically limiting my mailbox?

Its called a vacation hold at the post office or having a neighbor bring in your mail. Though that brings up the issue of direct mail and junk mail which is a whole other can of *very* smelly worms.

Re:My Mailbox at Home is Full (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#37047978)

Considering that the corporate email server must have been quite anemic to fall over because of a couple thousand emails, apparently there is no duty to take even ordinary care of one's mailbox before charging snail mail spammers with hacking.

Re:My Mailbox at Home is Full (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37047756)

You can't fight the US postal service, they'll go postal on your ass.

Re:My Mailbox at Home is Full (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37047770)

the government would never go after Capital One regardless of any wrongdoing because they give congress and other branches Porsches and handjobs

uh oh. slashdot effect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37047528)

is hacking!!!

If disrupting services by sending too many emails for a tiny mailbox to handle is hacking, then Slashdot directing too much traffic to an anemic host must be hacking too.

The union may have shit for lawyers. (3)

blair1q (305137) | more than 2 years ago | (#37047532)

If the company can't handle the consequences of its actions, it shouldn't act.

lame parade (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37047536)

omg think of all the MBA tools who will now start calling themselves "hackers" b/c they have callouses on their blackberry fingers.......

From the article (1)

hcmtnbiker (925661) | more than 2 years ago | (#37047550)

[We] conclude that a transmission that weakens a sound computer system—or, similarly, one that diminishes a plaintiff’s ability to use data or a system—causes damage.

The problem with this is likely that their computer system was not sound, and should not have caused any real damage.

The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act... (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#37047556)

Seems like this is the digital equivalent of every bit of Bush Jr.-era legislation rolled into one.

Maybe they could direct their protest emails into a digital free speech cage? (mailbox that stores in /dev/null)

i dont see it (1)

pdfsmail (2423750) | more than 2 years ago | (#37047558)

So if a company does something that causes them to receive complaints the complainer is a hacker, what crap Is that. The blame should be on the company for making a bad decision. I have the freedom to communicate with them as much as I want, especially if they are not addressing my issue. I think the people approving this junk needs to be jailed. So if a company were to release a bad product and consumers were to send lots of emails demanding a fix they would be hackers too? Man I never knew how much I really hacked... let's send emails demanding this get fixed....

Re:i dont see it (1)

SmurfButcher Bob (313810) | more than 2 years ago | (#37047862)

As one of many who run a mail server, let me be the first to tell you... ...that I am under no obligation to receive email from you.

Seriously, you think you have any implicit right to dictate how I my hardware is used?
Does that mean that I have it for yours?

If you didn't figure it out, the story is not about Grandma Customer sending a "Please Help Me" email, nor is it the equiv of their mail server being slashdotted. The story is about union griefers who are, as a group, knowingly participating in a mail bombing campaign. Every argument you've got goes out the window at that point. None of us have any sympathy for the NewFags dumb enough to get busted for using the LOIC tool, and we shouldn't have any sympathy for these idiots, either. Or, you're saying that I have more rights to your hardware than you do. Pick one.

"...To generate a high volume of calls, . . . [the Union] both hired an auto-dialing service and requested its members..."

Re:i dont see it (1)

pdfsmail (2423750) | more than 2 years ago | (#37048094)

LOL Ok well lets go ahead and force all mail server operators to have to accept any outrageous amount of incoming mail.... Please do not send emails and call excessively just because you can not handle that! Don't complain excessively when we ignore your plea.
I gurantee you if you had an issue with something you seriously disagreed with you are not going to sit on ur butt waiting for something to happen, you are going to get yourself noticed however possible...
If you don't like running a mail server... quit getting paid for it and do something else.

Translation: (1)

n5vb (587569) | more than 2 years ago | (#37047562)

People sending emails in response to a public call to action, to express their own views, is "hacking" and "denial of service".

Whereas setting up a captive SMTP server in a hosting farm to blast-transmit emails by the millions to people who had the misfortune to have their email addresses added to a spam list .. that's totally fine and dandy.

"It's like they're *daring* us to revolt!"

Re:Translation: (1)

DeeEff (2370332) | more than 2 years ago | (#37047732)

"It's like they're *daring* us to revolt!"

I like to think of it this way, if my union ever needs to do something like this, but can't because of legal repercussions, I'll just be sure to add the company's server to a few spam lists, and then we'll see if they wanna cry about their emails.

Wannabe hacking-kids on Youtube (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37047596)

Now this is gonna call for some new videos on Youtube.

"How to hack someone's e-mail account"

*Sends a couple of e-mails to the person*

Comments:
"This is illegal :E"
"Haha, now he has to change his password, since his e-mail account has been hacked"

I don't think so Tim. (1)

bdabautcb (1040566) | more than 2 years ago | (#37047600)

IANAL, but where do we draw the line?

Haha (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37047614)

I LOL'd.

looks like the judges need some too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37047640)

It looks to me like there are a couple of judges here that want to receive more emails.

So the slashdot effect... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37047660)

So the slashdot effect would qualify as hacking now? Dang, I must be 1337!

Next logical step (1)

MonsterTrimble (1205334) | more than 2 years ago | (#37047664)

A group of people send a bunch of emails to an email server, bringing it down. Court rules that activity is illegal.

A group of people send a bunch of server requests to a website server, bringing it down.

Ergo, Slashdotting is illegal.

Tea Bag Contest (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37047698)

This is great news! It's reset the bar for best tea-bagging by a lawyer. (did you get the memo? That's what American politics & legal affairs are actually for - an epic tea bagging contest!)

The new Union motto (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37047706)

Shutting down companies... One email folder at a time!

Actually, the union didn't lose. (5, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 2 years ago | (#37047766)

Here's the actual decision. [courtlistener.com] First, the company's request for an injunction to stop the mail campaign, denied by the district court, is still denied. The claim under the Computer Fraud and Abuse act goes back to the district court, and can proceed there, but the appellate court makes no comment on the merits of that claim. The appellate court was only dealing with the issue of whether the Norris-LaGuardia act, which gives jurisdiction to the National Labor Relations Board when the behavior involved arises out of a labor dispute, preempted the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act . The appeals court decided that this isn't an NLRB matter, and goes back to the district court.

Email account with less than 100 MegaBytes? (1)

cr0nj0b (20813) | more than 2 years ago | (#37047794)

In Theory...
So if 1 million people manually send an email no more than 100Kbytes in size, that is 100 MBytes.
Seriously? A single email account at a company has less than a 100 MB mailbox (or even free space)?

Re:Email account with less than 100 MegaBytes? (1)

cr0nj0b (20813) | more than 2 years ago | (#37047814)

100GigaBytes.

Political E-mails (1)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | more than 2 years ago | (#37047796)

What if a bunch of people send e-mails to their political representatives and slog the representatives' inboxes? Is that considered hacking? Didn't that just happen after a digital call to arms by Preseident Obama regarding the debt ceiling ordeal?

That kind of gets into a fuzzy grey area about the freedom to contact one's own political representative (i.e. speech).

Hacking? (1)

GritsConQueso (1988804) | more than 2 years ago | (#37047800)

I can't find the words hack or hacking in the Court's decision anywhere. Am I missing something?

Was it deliberate? (2)

91degrees (207121) | more than 2 years ago | (#37047802)

I'll disagree with what seems to be the consensus here, if they sent emails with the deliberate intent to bring down the mail server. It's a crude hack but it is taking advantage of a flaw in a system to cause damage.

It seems that they carried on emailing without actual malicious intent. However it looks like they were told that this would bring them down. That brings it down to recklessness. Does recklessly damaging a computer system count as hacking?

See? Anyone can hack. (1)

kakyoin01 (2040114) | more than 2 years ago | (#37047812)

Now it's very clear that anyone with an internet connection can hack. No real skills needed!

Nowhere does the ruling say "hacking" (4, Informative)

NiteShaed (315799) | more than 2 years ago | (#37047818)

The law in question is called the Computer Fraud and Abuse act, and I'd say they're going with the angle of abuse. In this case, LIUNA seems to have been going for what amounts to a DDoS attack against the contractors phones and emails.

To generate a high volume of calls, LIUNA both hired an auto-dialing service and requested its members to call Pulte. It also encouraged its members, through postings on its website, to “fight back” by using LIUNA’s server to send e-mails to specific Pulte executives. Most of the calls and e-mails concerned Pulte’s purported unfair labor practices, though some communications included threats and obscene language.

Now, right or wrong, I can at least see the reasoning of the ruling, and this isn't just a clueless judge saying "Oh noes, they hax0r3d the company interwebs". LIUNA seems to have decided that they were going to use their membership and outside companies to shut down Pulte's communications. That they used individual members instead of a botnet to go after the email server seems irrelevant, the intent was clearly to beat the company into submission, not just to voice dissatisfaction. Had they not hired the guys with the autodialer it would have been much easier to believe they were just trying to make themselves heard.

Re:Nowhere does the ruling say "hacking" (1)

GritsConQueso (1988804) | more than 2 years ago | (#37047914)

Agreed with you. The only reason this is a story is because the "journalist" from TFA injected the word "hacking" into it. The apparent motive for this was to rile up a bunch of geeks who get mad when the term "hacking" is used improperly, which would drive traffic to the article. Slashdot's predictable pet peeve has been used to boost someone's revenue. My apologies for inferring the ill intent and profit motive on the part of the journalist. It's either that, or we have to assume he's a dummy who can't read.

Re:Nowhere does the ruling say "hacking" (1)

jfengel (409917) | more than 2 years ago | (#37048036)

And that is why bloggers aren't journalists, and shouldn't be treated as sources of news.

Re:Nowhere does the ruling say "hacking" (1)

GritsConQueso (1988804) | more than 2 years ago | (#37048232)

That's awfully broad.

Still, this particular blogger has plainly misrepresented the content of the Court's decision. It's beyond me where he got the notion that anyone was talking about "hacking." The tweet he links as his source doesn't use that word, and neither does the lawyer's article linked to the tweet. It's plainly not in the judicial decision. I stick with my original assessment: he's just trying to drive traffic to his sight for financial gain.

Re:Nowhere does the ruling say "hacking" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37048048)

He's a journalist and there for a "dummy" that can't be bothered to check or understand the facts of the case. He just knows, that there is something that might be "news" and "reports" it (sort of).... yes I DO have a low opinion of "journalists" NOW GET OFF MY LAWN!!!

1.5TB ftw? (1)

nbsdx (2434648) | more than 2 years ago | (#37047828)

I mean seriously, If your company can't handle a couple hundred emails a day, then you have bigger problems to worry about. I work at a very small firm, and I receive up to 150 emails a day for various reasons. This doesn't even come close to stopping me from doing work. Buy a 1.5TB hard drive for 200 bucks, and call it a day. Oh, and for the love of God, learn to use the sort button.

Do Not Challenge Big Business (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37047834)

They own you and make the rules. Just accept it. It cant be changed at this point.

If you haven't been watching, the United States of America is 100% DONE AND OVER. Your politicians so obviously hold you in contempt they deliberately tanked the countries credit rating, just for the sake of a dickwaving contest in TV.

The problems cant be fixed. Americans are too weak willed, and weak mined to fix them. Toe the line, sit down, and shut up.

New anti-union tactic? (1)

KillaGouge (973562) | more than 2 years ago | (#37047842)

So now any company with union workers can set their inboxes to hold only a few messages, do something the union workers think is un-fair, and charge them with hacking when people start sending angry e-mails? This seems to be a cop-out to a larger problem. On the other hand I guess it could make union workers sit down with their union and think about what is to be said, rather than everybody e-mailing "this sucks"

the general public on the internet (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37047876)

Sometimes I have the feeling it was a bad move to allow the general public on the internet. Because they don't get it, and they will keep saying and doing really stupid things that hurt it.

Sending an email over a defined protocol that has a mechanism to handle a full inbox is not hacking. Failing to use basic 802.11 security and then bitching when google or somebody receives them **as the protocol is defined to work** is not hacking on google's part either.

People need to start demonstrating that they have at least a basic understanding of the protocols before being allowed to pass laws about them or interpret existing laws about them. Otherwise, all these things are going to drive us into an utterly insane world of paralysis through sheer idiocy.

what's next voice mail full = hacking? parking lot (2)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#37047916)

what's next voice mail full = hacking? parking lot full is = hacking as a Computer turns on the full sign?

Careful everyone (2)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 2 years ago | (#37047948)

If we comment too much on this post we might be hacking /.

Well, did they know? (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 2 years ago | (#37047954)

Did the union send the emails with the full knowledge they would overburden the mail server? In other words, was it "let's hurt their computer, oh and this is a way we can make it look legit?" Union loses: This is a DOS disguised as a speech action.

OR

Did the union send the emails as a protest and the computer problems were just an unfortunate side-effect? Union wins: They had no obligation to determine if the email system was up to the task or not.

OR

Did the union send the emails as a protest with the full knowledge that the email system would not be able to handle it? Union will probably lose under the doctrine of reckless indifference or gross negligence but it won't be nearly as bad as if sabotage was their intent.

Re:Well, did they know? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37047994)

Union asked members to contact company to voice their opinions.

Members did so.

Moral of the story? America hates unions, loves business, and hates dirty common working people.

Read the opinion! It's absolutely laden with lavish praise for the defendant, and basically reads like "how dare anyone sully the good name of this profitable building company. they are successful and profitable. the union members are dirty commies. this decision, therefore, is easy. I choose to go with precedent and side with money. Thanks for the bribe. I am a dirty fucking pig american official. Someone should gut me and my ilk like hogs, and restore freedom"

cable systems can use the same stuff on high VOD (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#37047956)

cable systems can use the same stuff on high free VOD use and big time downloaders by saying your use is give a DDoS to others.

Time for tech judges and courts with jury who know (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#37047984)

Time for tech judges and courts with jury who know about IT or at the very least have to pass some kind of basic test on IT / Computers.

Now this seems a like a judge who is to much on the letter of the law with not known must about IT other then not working / maxed out.

Too many slashdot comments is hacking. (1)

jimwelch (309748) | more than 2 years ago | (#37048016)

I think certain people ( first post, LOL, etc.) should be charged with hacking. ;) and anyone using emoticon.

Not as innocent as made out (1)

Quila (201335) | more than 2 years ago | (#37048018)

From the opinion:

Not content with its NLRB charge, LIUNA also began using an allegedly illegal strategy: it bombarded Pulte's sales offices and three of its executives with thousands of phone calls and e-mails. To generate a high volume of calls, LIUNA both hired an auto-dialing service and requested its members to call Pulte. It also encouraged its members, through postings on its website, to âoefight backâ by using LIUNAâ(TM)s server to send e-mails to specific Pulte executives. Most of the calls and e-mails concerned Pulte's purported unfair labor practices, though some communications included threats and obscene language.

This was in-part an automated denial of service. But, okay, give them the benefit of the doubt. They didn't know their campaign was materially inhibiting the company's ability to conduct business, and the law requires they intentionally do so. The union also categorized this campaign as "fighting back." Even though the court didn't, I'd again give them the benefit of the doubt as that being generic rhetoric. But then there's this:

Four days after LIUNA started its phone and e-mail blitz, Pulteâ(TM)s general counsel contacted LIUNA. He requested, among other things, that LIUNA stop the attack because it prevented Pulteâ(TM)s employees from doing their jobs. When the calls and emails continued, Pulte filed this suit alleging several state-law torts and violations of the Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

An organization without such intent would have ceased upon learning of the disruption. But they kept it up. The intent to deprive the company of the use of its systems was obviously there.

However, the opinion rejects the claim that the campaign constituted unauthorized access.

TFA/Summary is false; it was a DDOS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37048060)

It was a DDOS attack:

http://computerfraud.us/articles/can-a-labor-union-be-sued-under-the-computer-fraud-and-abuse-act-for-spamming-an-employer%E2%80%99s-voice-and-email-systems

(1) The union “instructed its members to send thousands of e-mails to three specific Pulte executives; (2) many of these e-mails came from . . . [the union’s] server; (3) . . . [the Union] encouraged its members to “fight back” after Pulte terminated several employees; (4) . . . [the union] used an auto-dialing service to generate a high volume of calls; and (5) some of the messages included threats and obscenity. And although Pulte appears to use an idiosyncratic e-mail system, it is plausible . . . [the union] understood the likely effects of its actions–that sending transmissions at such an incredible volume would slow down Pulte’s computer operations. . . . [The Union’s] rhetoric of “fighting back,” in particular, suggests that such a slow-down was at least one of its objectives.
Id. at *6.

I would write my senator to protest this, but... (1)

paulsnx2 (453081) | more than 2 years ago | (#37048116)

I don't want to be accused of hacking my senator's account. I would have to quit my day job and devote my self to writing emails 18 hours a day to protest everything I feel deserves a protest message, and it now seems that even if I could do this, it would be against the law....

Arguably, not a sound system ... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 2 years ago | (#37048124)

[We] conclude that a transmission that weakens a sound computer system -- or, similarly, one that diminishes a plaintiff's ability to use data or a system -- causes damage.

But from the article, it sounds explicitly like this wasn't a "sound" system ... it was badly configured, and couldn't keep up with the load put on it. If a court is upholding this as "hacking" then they're unqualified to evaluate this.

Seems like every time someone tries to pass a law related to technology, the law is written so badly as to demonstrate a complete lack of understanding of the thing the law is trying to cover.

How could the union possibly know that this would crash the email system?

All Spam Companies are now illegal (1)

gubers33 (1302099) | more than 2 years ago | (#37048200)

"The people running them and involved are all being charged with hacking and being sentenced to 5 years in prison." Give me a break, the government should no longer be allowed to make rulings on anything tech related since most judges and elected officials either A) Don't even know how to type or use a computer or B.) Type with two fingers at about 10 words per minute. This is just further prove about how putting a bunch of senior citizens as judges and congressmen is a bad idea. My father is only in his 50s and is fairly tech savvy compared to some of the other people his age, but I still routinely get calls about computer issues or doing something on the computer. If judges or congressman are going to be making laws or judgements on issues relating to technology, they should all had to go through multiple college courses on the subject in order to avoid judgements like this that anyone who knows what email is would think is retarded.
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