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Is it illegal for someone to modify in any way another person's hard drive (any files stored) without the owner's permission?

Encinitas, CA |

My brother retrieved his hard drive and noticed that the hard drive has been modified. Many files have been copied, deleted, access, etc. He had asked this person if they have accessed the hard drive, and modified it, and they have admitted to copying. He had mentioned files missing, and that is when the person admitted to deleting and modifying files. This person did not have permission to access the hard drive. Is there any way that the person can be sued or is it illegal for that person to access and modify his hard drive without permission?

Attorney Answers 2


  1. It is illegal - it's called "trespass to chattel" (chattel means property). It could also be identity theft and copyright infringement. All of these are tort causes of action.

    The information provided herein is general information only and not legal advice. The information provided herein does not create an attorney client relationship and is not a substitute for having a consultation with an attorney. It is important to have a consultation with an attorney as the information provided in this forum is limited and cannot possibly cover all potential issues in a given situation.


  2. There may be something there, but not sure what kind of damages your brother has. Why the other person had the hard drive in the first place might also be important. I don't think this is anything the police would be interested in, so assuming your brother could establish some amount of damages, he could sue in small claims court.