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Practical UNIX and Internet Security, 3rd Edition by Alan Schwartz, Gene Spafford, Simson Garfinkel

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Criminal Hazards

If you operate an Internet Service Provider or web site, or have networked computers on your premises, you may be at risk for criminal prosecution yourself if those machines are misused. This section is designed to acquaint you with some of the risks.

If law enforcement officials believe that your computer system has been used by an employee to break into other computer systems, transmit or store controlled information (trade secrets, child pornography, etc.), or otherwise participate in some computer crime, you may find your computers impounded by a search warrant (in criminal cases) or writ of seizure (in civil cases). If you can document that your employee has had limited access to your systems, and if you present that information during the search, it may help limit the scope of the confiscation. However, you may still be in a position in which some of your equipment is confiscated as part of a legal search.

Local police or federal authorities can present a judge with a petition to grant a search warrant if they believe there is evidence to be found concerning a violation of a law. If the petition is in order, the judge will almost always grant the search warrant. In the recent past, a few federal investigators and law enforcement personnel in some states developed a reputation for heavy-handed and excessively broad searches. In part, this was because of inexperience with computer crime. It has been getting better with time.

The scope of each search warrant is ...

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