How much trouble are my friends in? (e-mail spoofing)

I don’t want to go into too much detail here, but the bare facts are:
[ul][li]One of my dear friends, A, was laid off from her job. This was both a relief and a slap in the face, following a year of similar slaps.[/li][li]Mutual friend B, outraged on A’s behalf, did something colossally stupid: he used someone else’s password to access the web system of the company A worked for (B used to work there too, about seven years ago) and sent an e-mail that claimed to be from the company’s president, announcing the layoffs of several senior execs (not true) and decrying the company’s sexist inequity of compensation (true). B sent this e-mail not only to everyone at the company, but (crossing the line between stupid and colossally stupid) to several members of the press as well. [/li][li]The timing of this idiotic stunt, coming as it did on the very day that five people were laid off, made it almost certain that suspicion would fall on those five people; the charges of sexism against female executives further focused the company’s suspicion on the two laid-off employees who fit that description.[/li][li]A had no idea that B was going to do this and would have done everything in her power to stop him had she known; however, she has laughed off some previous (completely harmless) invasions of the company Web site he’s done in the past.[/ul][/li]A is, understandably, freaking way the heck out; I haven’t talked to B beyond a text message from him in which he opined that he was an idiot, an assessment with which I’m inclined to agree.

So now, to my question: How much and what sort of trouble could my friends be in here? Legal? Civil? Criminal? Apparently the e-mail was very embarrassing to the company and in the one press account I’ve seen about it, the official response sounded pretty pissed off.

I hereby acknowledge that none of you folks is my lawyer, and I’m only seeking general legal information to help wrap my head around exactly how screwed they are, singly or together.

I can’t see A being in any trouble. As for B I’m pretty sure this stunt constitutes a criminal act. Is a prepared to face criminal charges to defend B?

Penalties for this vary depending on a lot of things (how pervasive, damage caused, etc.). Nevertheless it is serious and can include significant jail time and fines.

I would advise your friends to seek out an attorney immediately to advise them. Attorney-client privilege will protect them so they can be honest.


I think I’ve found the press link. Sounds like the CEO is pretty pissed off.

okay, that’s not funny - stop it. :dubious:

I can’t imagine A being in any trouble. B on the other hand could be in for a world of hurt.


A is fine, so long as she does not become an accessory after the fact, i.e. assist B in any way pertaining to the crime. If she wants to be absolutely clean, she should go to the authorities.

B has run afoul of many laws with potentially scary consequences, but IMHO he’s likely to get away with it. For one, it’s going to be a difficult to prove case depending on how careful he was. Then, and this is the big one, nothing really bad happened. It is an embarrassment to the company, but beyond that, there was no appreciable damage. When you do damage, i.e. change passwords, delete files, etc. that you get into deep shit. He might get busted, depending on how hard the company pushes and how busy the prosecutor is, or nothing might come of it.

Unless he (1) confesses or (2) left some obvious smoking gun he’s probably off free.

You can read a lot of similar cases, conveniently labeled disgruntled employee, here:

Ahem. Actually, it WAS funny. :smiley:

I think it is unwise to be discussing the details of a possible legal case here. I am going to close this thread.

General Questions Moderator