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HR Solutions

Employee who wiped computer drive, then quit, must stand trial

03/20/06

Jacob Citrin may have to pay for his misdeeds committed just before he quit International Airport Center.  He erased his company’s laptop hard drive and then installed software insuring the deletion was irreversible.  The Seventh Circuit reinstated the complaint against him, reversing federal district court Judge Andersen here in Chicago.

 

IAC sued him under the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, 18 U.S.C §1030, a law forbidding transmission of a program or command to damage a computer—and with the intent to damage.  Citrin won at the district court on the argument that wiping a hard drive was not a “transmission”.

 

Although Judge Posner doubted that merely touching a button to command an operation was a “transmission,” he had no doubt that IAC was entitled to a trial.  Citrin had also (allegedly) transmitted a “secure-erasure” program to the laptop—to make certain the erased data could never be recovered.  Hence an application designed to damage the computer’s files was, according to IAC’s complaint, transmitted to the laptop electronically.

 

Furthermore, another section of the federal statute imposes liability for the intentional act of gaining access to a computer without permission and recklessly causing damage to the computer or its files.

 

The case is International Airport Centers LLC, et al. v. Jacob Citrin, __F3d__ (7th Cir. 2006), Case No. 05-1522.