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Theft of email is a crime, says US court

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A US court has ruled that stealing email is a criminal offence and could land offenders in hot water. The Pennsylvania court ruled that an employee of the Internet company Sladekutter illegally hacked into the computer system of rival company Labwerks. In what amount to industrial espionage, the intruder stole email containing the names of Labwerks' customers and used this privileged information to contact those customers. In her decision, US District Judge Donetta Ambrose found that Sladekutter had broken the federal wiretap law by illegally accessing Labwerks' computer system. She ordered Sladekutter to return the files and other materials obtained from accessing Labwerks' computer system. According to Labwerks' attorney Peter A. Santos, the case was so significant that the ruling was returned just two weeks from the date it was filed. "The court has said in no uncertain terms that it will not tolerate one business breaking into another business' computer system," said Mr. Santos of the Pittsburgh law firm Dickie, McCamey & Chilcote, P.C. "It's illegal and it will be stopped," he said. ®

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