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The Courts

Journal FortKnox's Journal: Is it a crime?? 14

OK, semi-hypothetical, here. I know someone that gave a buncha people his shell password (lets call him george). He let people modify a directory full of code and stuff. One guy was told off by George (lets call him karl), so George changed the pass, and gave the new pass out to the others.

One of the others that codes (lets call him tim) eventually got a little frustrated, and gave the password to Karl.

Karl logs in, does a quick rm -rf * in the directory, and nukes a buncha stuff. George doesn't have a backup of half the stuff.

Is Karl or Tim in any legal trouble??

For clarification, George owns the directory and login name (rents the box), Karl is the disgruntled guy that deleted the stuff, and Tim gave Karl the password.

FYI - no, I'm not any of the three people, but I know them all.
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Is it a crime??

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  • Thoughts (Score:3, Informative)

    by JMZero ( 449047 ) on Tuesday April 09, 2002 @03:10PM (#3311452) Homepage
    George may be able to sue Tim if there was an agreement to keep the password secret.

    George has a clear actionable item with Karl in terms of litigation, but probably nothing the police would act on.

    Also, George is dumb. Remember:

    "Jesus saves. Jesus also makes nightly offsite backups."

    • Also, George is dumb. Remember:
      "Jesus saves. Jesus also makes nightly offsite backups."

      Jesus also doesn't use one shell account for many people.
      Shared passwords almost always lead to unhappy situations like the one described.

      Wait a minute - how'd jesus get involved?!
      • Jesus also doesn't use one shell account for many people.

        I would hope not.. Then again, Jesus did have some rogue ideas on system administration - like "turn the other cheek" to attackers. That just doesn't fly with my boss.

    • there had to have been some sort of written/signed paper indicating the agreement in order for Tim to be sued. Tim's lawyer would be quick to ask for that if a suit were brought. afaik, verbal agreements are null&void legally, i'm not sure about email. email may fall into verbal, but that's justa guess

      disclaimer: IANAL.
      • >afaik, verbal agreements are null&void legally

        Many people believe that a legally binding contract must be written. This is a myth. A contract can be made on spoken words alone or even by the conduct of the parties.
        The main difference between an oral contract and a written contract is that it is harder to prove the existence of an oral contract. Because an oral agreement is not written down, the existence of the terms must be proved by memory of the parties and other evidence.
 least, according to []

        Now, I don't know if giving out a password and saying 'now, don't give this to anyone, especially Karl' counts as an oral contract or not. Then of course, you have to be able to prove damages, I would assume.
        • Well, he was never asked to keep it secret. I guess it was assumed.
          • Re:Thoughts (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Fishstick ( 150821 )
            That's a tough one. When you hand out something like a password, you assume it to be kept a secret. If someone violates that assumed agreement, they probably have broken an oral contract in one way or another.

            I assume the trick is to prove damages and convince a judge/jury that the person who gave out the password and/or the person who used it to wipe out the files actually did it.

  • This sounds like a word problem from one of those damn college entrance exams. I bet this is a trick question and the answer is just: "George Washington had a white horse."
    • On a side note, I'm taking a silly computer security class and the teacher always uses me as the person who does nefarious deeds. So, on our midterm we were asked about a senerio of Alice talking to Bob and some interceptor getting information. When we got the test back, almost everyone nammed this intercepter Charlie (my name) and the teacher thought that was kind of interesting. FYI I nammed mine Irving. I guess I'll have to get one of those black T-Shirts with hacker across the front to show up for the final.
      • iirc, standard jargon for crypto folk is to name the interceptor Eve, as in "Eve"sdropping.
        • Yeah, I'm quite familiar with the standard terms... I thought I was being different by naming mine Irving (since the problem didn't state they were the evesdropper, the actual wording was interceptor)...
    • that reminds me of a story i was once told by a prof:

      two guys miss a morning exam after a night of drinking. they tell the prof they had a flat on the way home from skiing (a lie).

      the prof decides to give them a second chance, and informs them they will havea much more difficult exam, the following thursday so that they can prepare for the extra difficult test.

      so they prep long and hard. test time - the prof puts them into separate rooms. first question was an easy one for 5 points. both nail it easily. question 2, for 95 points: Which tire?
  • This is a trick question: it cannot be answered with the facts given. The correct answer depends on who is most valuable to the company. And vice versa. The least valuable person is the one who gets blamed.

    At face value... Depends on company policy. Are users allowed to share passwords?

    Okay, second window opened with the original post. Looks like maybe this is a colo or rental shell account? If George told Tim not to give the pword to Karl, then Tim is in the crapper. Did George say to Karl "you aren't allowed to use this account ever again, unless I specifically tell you"? If not, Karl is probably scott free. But, if George did say this (or words to that effect), Karl is in deep, as he has circumvented a security device, blah, blah, blah.

    If it matters, ask a lawyer. Otherwise... Keep us updated:)

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