Access is the right to enter or make use of.

Computer system

(Noun) Access is the

entry granted to a software path that establishes the right to use a system and its resources: to read, write, modify, or delete data and/or to use software processes with various capabilities.[1]
[a]bility and means to communicate with or otherwise interact with a system, to use system resources to handle information, to gain knowledge of the information the system contains, or to control system components and functions.
[t]he ability and the means necessary to approach, store, or retrieve data, or communicate with or make use of any resource of a computer information system.[2]

(Verb) To achieve the status of having access.

Copyright law

Under U.S. copyright law, the term access means the “opportunity to review the copyrighted work.”[3] In traditional copyright infringement analysis, if the plaintiff cannot establish that the defendant copied a work by direct evidence, it can satisfy its burden of proof by showing that the defendant had access to the copyrighted work, and that the two works are substantially similar.

Criminal law

Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

For purposes of the CFAA, when someone sends an e-mail message from his or her own computer, and the message then is transmitted through a number of other computers until it reaches its destination, the sender is making use of all of those computers, and is therefore ‘accessing’ them.”[4]

State computer crime laws

In the area of computer crime, the term "access" is often used as an element of a criminal act. For example, under the California computer crime statute, the term access is defined as

to gain entry to, instruct, or communicate with the logical, arithmetical, or memory function resources of a computer, computer system, or computer network.[5]

In the Washington state computer crime law, access is defined as:

to approach, instruct, communicate with, store data in, retrieve data from, or otherwise make use of any resources of a computer, directly or by electronic means.[6]

Foreign computer/cybercrime laws

In the Philippines, access is defined as:

the instruction, communication with, storing data in, retrieving data from, or otherwise making use of any resources of a computer system or communication network.[7]

Government surveillance

In connection with surveillance by law enforcement, the term access has been defined as:

The technical capability to interface with a communications facility, such as a communications line or switch, so that law enforcement can monitor and receive call setup information and call content.[8]

Information security

Access is the "[a]bility to make use of any information system (IS) resource."[9]


Access is

a. a way or means of approach to identify a target; or
b. exploitable proximity to or ability to approach an individual, facility, or information that enables target to carry out the intended mission.[10]


“Individuals have a wide variety of avenues to access cyberspace in general, and the Internet in particular. In terms of physical access, there are two common methods to establish an actual link to the Internet. First, one can use a computer or computer terminal that is directly (and usually permanently) connected to a computer network that is itself directly or indirectly connected to the Internet. Second, one can use a ‘personal computer’ with a ‘modem’ to connect over a telephone line to a larger computer or computer network that is itself directly or indirectly connected to the Internet.”[11]


Access is "[t]he ability and opportunity to obtain knowledge of classified information.[12]


Access is

an individual’s ability to view, modify, and contest the accuracy and completeness of personally identifiable information collected about him or her. Access is an element of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) Fair Information Principles (FIPs).[13]


Access is

[t]he technical capability to interface with a communications facility, such as a communications line or switch, so that law enforcement can monitor and receive call setup information and call content.[14]

Types of access

There are two basic types of access: "view" and "edit."

  • "View" access means that a user is able to view or obtain a copy of the information only.
  • "Edit" access means that a user is able to correct, amend or delete information.


  1. CNSSI 4009, at 1.
  2. Auditing and Financial Management: Glossary of EDP Terminology, at 1.
  3. E.F. Johnson Co. v. Uniden Corp. of America, 623 F. Supp. 1485, 1492 n.5 (D. Minn. 1985) (full-text).
  4. America Online, Inc. v. National Health Care Discount, Inc., 121 F. Supp. 2d 1255, 1273 (N.D. Iowa 2000) (full-text).
  5. Cal. Penal Code §502.
  6. Wash. Rev. Code 9A.52.010(6).
  7. Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 (Philippines) §3(a).
  8. Office of Technology Assessment, Electronic Surveillance in a Digital Age, Glossary (July 1995).
  9. NIST Special Publication 800-32.
  10. U.S. Department of Defense, Joint Pub. 1–02: DOD Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms (Nov. 8, 2010, as amended through May 15, 2011) (full-text).
  11. American Civil Liberties Union v. Reno, 929 F. Supp. 824, 832 (E.D. Pa. 1996) (full-text), aff’d, Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union, 521 U.S. 844 (1997) (full-text).
  12. Department of the Army Information Security Program, at 227.
  13. U.S. Department of Justice, Privacy Technology Focus Group Final Report, App. B, at 49.
  14. Electronic Surveillance in a Digital Age, at 71.

See also

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