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Q: Are password sites illegal? ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   6 Comments )
Subject: Are password sites illegal?
Category: Relationships and Society > Law
Asked by: baerana-ga
List Price: $5.00
Posted: 03 Sep 2003 16:34 PDT
Expires: 03 Oct 2003 16:34 PDT
Question ID: 251955
Is it illegal to put up a website where you list passwords to other
sites?  For example, there are many websites that allow people to post
passwords that allow you to access a porn site without paying.  I
believe *gaining* these passwords in the first place was illegal,
because generally the people who get them do a brute force attack (or
other "hacking" attack) to get the passwords.  I believe it's possible
USING the passwords to access a site you haven't paid for is illegal
(unauthorized access to a computer system).  But is POSTING the
password illegal?  Would it be a copyright violation?  (I wouldn't
think so, but lately it's been impossible for me to foresee the way
the DMCA will be applied)

Request for Question Clarification by mvguy-ga on 03 Sep 2003 17:35 PDT
Are you looking for the law in any particular jurisdiction?  In the
United States, the answer could vary from state to state.

Clarification of Question by baerana-ga on 03 Sep 2003 17:43 PDT
Well, all over the U.S., I guess - it's a website.  It's hosted in
Pennsylvania.  The owner lives in New York.  The websites who's
passwords are posted are from all over.  I don't know what
jurisdiction would be relevant.
Subject: Re: Are password sites illegal?
Answered By: mvguy-ga on 03 Sep 2003 22:33 PDT
Rated:4 out of 5 stars

As I indicated earlier, there are some broadly written state laws
involving the passing on of trade secrets or theft of services that
could apply. However, as I have discovered in researching this
question, there is also a federal law that applies, provided that the
intent is to defraud.

The applicable law is the United States Code, Title 18, Part I,
Chapter 47, Section 1030, Subsection (a)(6).

You can find the law on this page:

Section 1030. Fraud and related activity in connection with computers

The relevant part of the law is as follows:

[Whoever]  (6) knowingly and with intent to defraud traffics (as
in section 1029) in any password or similar information through
which a computer may be accessed without authorization, if -
  (A) such trafficking affects interstate or foreign commerce;
  (B) such computer is used by or for the Government of the
  United States;
... shall be punished as provided in subsection (c) of this section
provides for a penalty of 10 years and a fine].

To "traffic" is defined as to "transfer, or otherwise dispose of, to
another, or obtain control of with intent to transfer or dispose of."

Posting something in a place that is publicly accessible would be one
way to "dispose of" a password to another person. To summarize, then,
the posting of passwords is illegal under federal law if the following
provisions are met:
a) if it is done knowingly
b) if the purpose is to defraud (such as by allowing "free" access
that should cost money)
c) if it involves commerce that crosses state lines (which it almost
certainly would)

Passwords are not copyrightable.  Copyrights are reserved for the
results of intellectual or creative activity.  See the following

What Is Copyrightable?

I hope this fully answers your question.



Search strategy: I went to and went to the
section on federal laws, then searched in the U.S. code with the
search term of "password."

Also Google search term: "what is copyrightable"
baerana-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars
Very nice, thanks.

Subject: Re: Are password sites illegal?
From: slawek-ga on 03 Sep 2003 16:58 PDT
I doubt that many of the gained passwords are cracked in any way. 
Most of them likely have been purchased legaly, and simply posted on
the Internet. But that is just my educated guess. :)

Subject: Re: Are password sites illegal?
From: mvguy-ga on 03 Sep 2003 17:38 PDT
Here's an example of a law under which the practice would be illegal:
By diverting "computer services" to a person not entitled to them, one
is committing theft of services under Alabama law.
Subject: Re: Are password sites illegal?
From: mvguy-ga on 03 Sep 2003 17:40 PDT
Similarly, passing on a "trade secret," which as defined would include
passwords, would also be illegal.
Subject: Re: Are password sites illegal?
From: magnesium-ga on 03 Sep 2003 18:08 PDT
I would think this would be considered illegal in most jurisdictions,
since it is likely that it would result in a loss of revenue to the
entities whose passwords are being published. That seems to me like a
form of theft.
Subject: Re: Are password sites illegal?
From: baerana-ga on 03 Sep 2003 18:31 PDT
Right, but just by POSTING the info, there is no loss. There isn't
loss until someone USES the info.  So, is POSTING the info a crime?

For one thing, most of these sites have a disclaimer saying the site
is only for "educational" use and not to do anything illegal with the
info.  Obviously, people do, but people do illegal things with
hammers... hammers aren't illegal.
Subject: Re: Are password sites illegal?
From: robertskelton-ga on 03 Sep 2003 18:50 PDT
You might find that many of the password sites are a sham, and work in
conjunction with the porn sites themselves. It's a psychological trick
to get people excited about the porn content.

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