Legal Technology

Federal Judge Nixes Smartphones for Fired Worker and Hubby Accused of Hacking Law Firm's Computer


For thousands of years, humans somehow managed to survive without smartphones, a federal judge told a fired former law firm worker and her husband on Monday during a hearing on bond conditions. In fact, U.S. District Judge David Cercone noted, he himself still doesn’t have one.

So requiring Alyson Cunningham and her husband, Jonathan, to make do without the electronic devices, too, doesn’t rise to the level of a constitutional deprivation, Cercone said in response to arguments by defense attorneys that not having their smartphones would severely limit the couple in their work. Jonathan Cunningham is a Web designer whose clients frequently contact him by email, and Alyson Cunningham says she needs to be available by email because she is looking for a job, the Tribune-Review reports.

The couple face charges of conspiring to access a protected computer without authorization, along with another man, based on accusations that they hacked into the computer system of the Pittsburgh law firm where Alyson Cunningham formerly worked. The group is accused of working together to install software that could capture passwords and to obtain financial information about Alyson Cunningham’s onetime co-workers.

The Cunninghams can still access their email on computers on which the federal probation office has installed monitoring software, but a probation officer told the judge that the only option for smartphones is to disable Internet access. Cercone asked that he find out whether it is possible to allow email but disable other Internet access on smartphones.

“Generally, the smartphones are a nightmare because we can’t monitor them,” probation officer Pete Gawlinski told the judge.

Earlier coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Fired Law Firm Worker Is Charged with Hacking into Server”

Last updated at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday to correct the name of the Tribune-Review.

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