Is it illegal for someone to hack into a business' computer system to see if an employee of that business is getting on facebook or instant messaging people?
1 Answer from Attorneys
Most likely yes. Potential areas of concern would be:
1) Is there a corporate policy governing network access by employees? For instance, many companies allow their IT or HR personnel to access all employee internet access records & activity while at the same time alerting employees that use of their network is the property of the business and the employee should not have any expectation of privacy while using their systems.
2) Does the "hacking" include circumventing encryption? This could implicate portions of the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) that provide specific penalties for breaking encryption to access copyrighted material. Using a stolen password would most likely count as circumventing encryption.
3) This could possibly be a common law trespass or conversion, although the business would likely have to be the party suing for the unlawful trespass/conversion of their equipment and not the employee.
4) This could possibly be an "invasion of privacy" under the Constitution or the ECPA (Electronic Communications Privacy Act) if the "hacker" is a government employee.
5) If a private investigator is the "hacker" they may also be violating their regulatory or professional organization's rules.
6) If this is a domestic dispute between two employees there may also be corporate policies mandating that the employees make HR aware of the relationship which a violation could result in both employees termination.