Press Releases

Groups and Experts Oppose Computer Fraud and Abuse Act Amendment

Twenty organizations from across spectrum issue letter against expansion of controversial law.

Press contact: Mark Stanley, 202.681.7582
Email: [email protected]

Washington, DC — Demand Progress, ACLU, EFF, and CDT are among 20 organizations, along with many prominent security researchers, releasing a letter today in opposition to Senator Sheldon Whitehouse’s proposed amendment to expand the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). The amendment would worsen existing problems with the law and enable prosecution of behaviors that are not malicious computer trespasses or hacking, which was the original target of the CFAA. Whitehouse hopes to append the language to the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) this week.

The following can be attributed to Demand Progress Communications Director Mark Stanley:

”The CFAA is notoriously harsh and outdated, and has led to outrageous prosecutions — including that of late activist and Demand Progress co-founder Aaron Swartz, who committed suicide while under indictment under the CFAA in 2013. The law desperately needs to be reformed, not expanded.”

The full letter is here, and the text is below.


We, the undersigned civil liberties and privacy groups, and security experts, write in opposition to the proposed amendment (No. 2626) from Senator Whitehouse to the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (“CISA”) that would expand the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (“CFAA”).

Amendment No. 2626 would alter the CFAA in dangerous and unpredictable ways.

First, the amendment would expand the existing prohibition in the CFAA against selling passwords to any “means of access” without clarifying how the law applies to legitimate computer security research, such as paid researchers who identify and disclose software vulnerabilities. Second, the amendment includes a requirement that empowers government to obtain injunctions that can force companies to hack computer users for a wide range of activity unrelated to botnets, though the provision is ostensibly directed at stopping botnets. Third, the amendment would create a broad new criminal violation for damaging critical infrastructure, which is already illegal under the CFAA.

The Whitehouse amendment fails to address ambiguity in current law that has led to the use of the CFAA to prosecute valuable security research, levy disproportionate penalties, and criminalize ordinary Internet activity. We are united in our view that, at the very least, any amendment to the CFAA be subject to full and open debate and must not be tacked on to CISA, itself a highly controversial and complex piece of legislation.

The amendment would exacerbate existing problems with the CFAA and enable prosecution of behaviors that are not malicious computer trespasses or hacking, which was the original and appropriate target of the CFAA. Worse, these changes are being rushed through Congress without adequate debate over the far-reaching effects of its provisions.

Accordingly, we urge you to oppose Amendment No. 2626 to CISA. Please do not hesitate to contact Gabe Rottman, legislative counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union, at 202-675-2325 or [email protected], with any questions or comments.



  • Advocacy for Principled Action in Government
  • American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
  • American Civil Liberties Union
  • American Library Association
  • Bill of Rights Defense Committee
  • Center for Democracy and Technology
  • Constitutional Alliance
  • Copia Institute
  • Cyber Privacy Project
  • Defending Dissent Foundation
  • Demand Progress
  • Electronic Frontier Foundation
  • Fight for the Future
  • Free Press Action Fund
  • Government Accountability Project
  • National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
  • New America’s Open Technology Institute
  • Niskanen Center
  • R Street
  • Restore the Fourth

Security Experts

  • Sergey Bratus, Research Associate Professor
  • Eric Brunner-Williams
  • Antonios A. Chariton – Security Engineer, IDAspis
  • Stephen Checkoway, Assistant Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago*
  • David L. Dill, Professor, Stanford University*
  • Aiden Riley Eller
  • Robert G. Ferrell, Security Expert
  • Joe Grand, Product Designer, Security Researcher, Teacher, Grand Idea Studio, Inc.
  • Carl Hewitt, Board Chair Standard IoT
  • Frederic Jacobs, Security Researcher, Swiss Institute of Technology (EPFL), Open Whisper Systems
  • Ryan Lackey, Security Researcher
  • Robert J. Lupo, Security Architect, IBM Inc.
  • Brian Martin, Risk Based Security, Director of Vulnerability Intelligence
  • Morgan Marquis-Boire, Senior Researcher, Citizen Lab, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto
  • Andrew McConachie, Internet Infrastructure Engineer
  • Katie Moussouris, Chief Policy Officer, HackerOne
  • David Wagner, Professor, University of California, Berkeley*
  • Stephen Wilson, Managing Director, Lockstep Consulting & Lockstep Technologies
  • Stefano Zanero, Chair, IEEE Computer Society, STC on Cybersecurity

*Affiliation provided for identification purposes only