Jonathan Marks, STLMoms: Protecting those who have been hacked online

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Margie Ellisor: Are you concerned about a vengeful ex hacking your personal email or maybe your social media accounts? It’s happening, but what can you do about it? Family law attorney Jonathan Marks with the Marks Law Firm here this morning with more on your rights. Good morning.

Jonathan Marks: Good morning, Margie.

ME: So, advanced technology. This is out there, and it’s happening. What can you do if you get hacked?

JM: Well you first have to figure out when the hack took place. So, you know, most of the time you’re looking at whether it’s on your email or some form of your social media. I mean, you have to really be sure that somebody’s broken into your account. Not only that, you have to make sure it isn’t somebody you have provided with your password or the ability to get into your computer system to do so.

ME: What laws are out there to protect you?

JM: So, the two most prominent ones are in the federal court. So, there is the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, there is also the Stored Communications Act. Those would be federal rights which you could sue within a two year time period for purposes of being able to collect. But there’s key factors within that one because you have to figure out specifically who is the individual that hacked into the computer. If you’re unable to do it within that two year time period, you have to still file a suit, but you sue against what we would call a John Doe defendant and then take that next two year time period to really figure out who it was that broke into your account.

ME: And that’s key, isn’t it Jonathan? I mean, even if you don’t know to file then, because if you wait two years it’s going to be too late.

JM: Correct. Yeah, the most prominent case that came out in New York had that similar situation, where somebody did sue. They had the email hack come into play, but they didn’t get the defendant right within the two year time period, and as a result of it, that particular portion of the case was dismissed. But, the appellate court reversed it when they discovered that the Facebook account, as opposed to the email, was seven months later and it fell within that two year time period.

ME: You mentioned those two are federal laws, are there any state laws that can help you?

JM: Sure. I mean, you could go under, you know, a defamation suit. So let’s say somebody broke into your email and then sent out disparaging comments through your email to your employer. That could also fall into a tortuous interference with a business relationship if somebody then damaged your ability to retain your job or interfered with your business communications. And then there’s also a False Light Privacy Act, where if somebody was just sending things out to your family and friends, that could also come into play.

ME: In the New York case that did happen, she consequently lost her job.

JM: She did. She was a teacher, a middle school teacher in New York. And then as a result of what turned out to be sexually explicit emails that were sent out under her email account by an ex boyfriend, she ended up unemployed and unfortunately has not recovered to date.

ME: Yeah. So what’s the best case scenario? You discover you’re hacked…is to right away just report it?

JM: I think yes. It’s probably to make sure…get in touch with somebody, whether it’s you taking your computer for purposes of having it forensically examined, or it’s getting in touch with, you know if you are getting a divorce or some form of a custody suit, getting in touch with your attorney and having that discussion as to what you can do to be able to protect your rights. Because obviously when you’re going through this situation of modern technology, it doesn’t take much. Somebody on the other end doesn’t know that they’ve in essence received a false communication that puts you into a really poor light, and it can affect not just your ability to parent, but also, you know, your ability to earn a living.

ME: Absolutely. Family Law Attorney Jonathan Marks, thank you, we appreciate your time this morning. For more information on the Marks Law Firm head to the STL Moms tab.

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