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In a recent Missouri Supreme Court case, Western Blue Co. v. Roberts, the court found that there was substantial evidence to support a finding of computer tampering by a former employee. Missouri Law allows the owner or lessee of a computer system or network to bring civil action against any person who violates the computer tampering statute.

In Western Blue Co., after an individual decided not to renew her employment contract and took a job with a competing company, the employer found that its corporate laptop had large amounts of data deleted from it. The missing data greatly affected the ability of the employer to successfully continue business. Analysis and testing of the laptop determined that 47,203 files had been deleted. Also, two compact discs containing confidential files were found at the former employee’s home. A forensic computer analyst testified that the great number of files deleted showed that the deletion was not accidental. The information found on the compact discs contained data that had been deleted from the company’s computer.

The Court concluded that there was substantial evidence that the former employee knowingly deleted computer data, and the retention of the files on the compact disc could support an inference that the defendant copied the confidential files on a compact disc in order to retain them for use at her new job with a competitor.  The Missouri Supreme Court upheld the circuit jury verdict, which found that the former employee committed computer tampering as defined in Missouri Revised Statute 569.095.

Both employers and employees need to understand that the scope of Section 569.095 is quite broad as to what constitutes computer tampering. This case should be instructive to employers to safeguard computer access to data and programs.Also, employees should know why type of conduct constitutes computer tampering to avoid violating the statute.