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Reuters' Hack Deemed Legal
posted by mpawlo on Sunday January 26, @10:36AM
from the open-door dept.
Criminal Law As reported by Greplaw, by Washington Post, by Slashdot and The Register, Swedish company Intentia suffered from some serious information leakage due to an alleged hack conducted by Reuters. The information leak led to a major decline in the stock price (minus 23 percent). Intentia, a company listed on the Stockholm Stock Exchange, was due to report its third quarter results. The news agency Reuters published the results way before they were disclosed by Intentia.

Intentia first claimed Reuters hacked Intentia's system. Later reports tells of a Reuters reporter allegedly accessing an open web space where the report was publicized, however with a non-disclosed URL. If the reporter, as Intentia claims, tampered with the system in some way a computer intrusion charge might stick and perhaps one could argue that a breach of the company secrets act had occurred. If the reporter got the URL from an insider, Reuters may argue that the constitutional freedom of press statues should prevail. Intentia filed a complaint with the Swedish police.

The prosecutor Mr Hakan Roswall choose to do nothing with Intentia's complaint. Mr Roswall concludes that it is illegal to access information stored in a computer that the proprietor deems to be secret and the proprietor protects. Mr Roswall states that Intentia did not clearly state that the information should be secret and did not protect the information. On the contrary it was very easy to access the information. Intentia stated that the report would be available at a certain time, and you only had to slightly change the URL (web address) from the report of the previous quarter in order to obtain the current report. Hence, Mr Roswall will not initiate proceedings against Reuters or any of its reporters.

[UPDATE 2003-01-27, 15:42]: Computer Sweden reports (in Swedish) that Reuters is happy with the outcome and that any different approach would seriously have limited Reuters ability to search for news items online. Intentia on the other hand will - according to Computer Sweden - change its information routines and never put any non-disclosed reports on servers or computers connected to the Internet (that is probably public servers, should Intentia not consider airwalls). It is further clarified in the Computer Sweden article that the press release issued by Intentia did not expressly state when the report would be made public. If the press release had stated that the report would be made available at a given time, the outcome might have been different. In this case, Intentia only stated that the report would be made public 'around 2 pm'.

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Related Links
  • Slashdot
  • Computer Sweden reports
  • As reported by Greplaw
  • Washington Post
  • by Slashdot
  • The Register
  • Swedish company Intentia
  • More on Criminal Law
  • Also by mpawlo
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