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July 2003

How to avoid federal Wiretap Act issues with a honeypot network security system

Before you design and deploy a honeypot, consider the possible legal issues. Even if you own a network or are responsible for its security and maintenance, you may not have the unfettered right to watch what network users are doing. Provisions in federal and state statutes, particularly the federal Wiretap Act, which I'll discuss in more detail, may restrict your right to engage in certain types of monitoring. For some violations, the sanctions may include civil and criminal penalties. Additionally, organizational policies, acceptable use agreements and contracts may also conflict with your honeypot deployment. There's also a small chance that the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which generally prohibits government searches and seizures without a warrant, could restrict your right to monitor honeypot users if you are a government employee or agent, or if the honeypot is operated under the direction of a government agency. The mitigating factor here is that the monitoring of users is proper without a warrant if they ...

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