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Can hackers be sued for damages caused by computer viruses?

Pamela Samuelson
Communications of the ACM June 1989 v32 n6 p666(4)
ISSN 0001-0782
June 1989

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Computer viruses damage computer systems in many ways, including destroying programs and data, causing lost computing time and necessitating expensive cleanup procedures and increased security measures. If the damage caused by such a virus is extensive, it would seem appealing to sue the author for restitution. Careful consideration must be paid to the facts in the case, however, to determine whether or not a beneficial resolution is possible through legal action. Two problems stand in the way of a favorable resolution. First, there are few laws on the books which set clearly applicable precedents for the right to legal relief in virus-related cases. Second, since hackers tend to work by themselves, the cost of a lawsuit may be more than can reasonably be recovered from the defendant. The legal ramifications of the virus problem are discussed in detail.

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