What is a cyber tort?

Glenn W. Peterson

The Internet expands your business’ reach, allowing you access to customers beyond the borders of California. However, many of the problems you might face in the “brick and mortar” world could also be present in the virtual world. Harassment, theft and cons all exist online, and thanks to the global nature of the Internet, could come from anywhere in the world. When your organization is victimized in the virtual space, you enter the realm of the cyber tort.

To understand cyber torts, it helps to have a solid grasp of regular torts, first. A tort is essentially legal speak for some kind of harm one person or business does to another. The damage does not have to result from intentional wrongdoing. Simply being negligent is also actionable if it negatively impacts your company.

A cyber tort, then, is when harm is done to a business or an individual online. The ways in which you could suffer a legal injury on the Internet parallel real-world dangers, and include the following:

  • Use of online services, such as social media, to tarnish your organization’s image
  • Trademark infringement
  • Illegal downloading or dissemination of intellectual property
  • Having domain names pilfered in what is legally termed “conversion”

Denial of service attacks and exposure to potentially harmful software such as spyware would also fall under the umbrella of cyber torts. It would be prudent to take as many precautions as possible to help prevent your enterprise from falling victim to any of these possibilities. Remember, even negligence on behalf of another could put your company at risk.

This article is intended for informational use only and is not intended to provide legal advice.

Source: Pennsylvania State University, “Cyber Torts,” accessed June 16, 2016