Analytics
11/1/2012
07:45 AM
50%
50%

Companies Should Think About Hacking Back Legally, Attorney Says

Fighting back against cybercriminals can be risky, but there are legal ways to do it, says Hacker Halted speaker

MIAMI -- Hacker Halted 2012 -- If you're so frustrated with hackers that you're thinking about hitting them back, then be careful -- but it can be done.

That was the message delivered Tuesday by David Willson, an attorney from Titan Info Security Group, here at the Hacker Halted conference.

While many companies have the technical tools and knowledge they need to inflict damage on their online opponents, most of them do not pursue the idea because of concerns that the law will regard them as hackers themselves, Willson says.

"The bad news is that [corporations'] security sucks," he says. "The good news is that the bad guys' security sucks, too. There are tools, techniques, and intelligence that you can use to anticipate attacks as well as effectively stop them -- and potentially identify attackers once discovered in your network."

For example, a corporation could place code on a bot that has infected its network, Willson says. Eventually, that code might be transferred back to the attacker's command-and-control server, and could be programmed to block the attacker's communications path.

The trick, Willson says, is how to hack back legally. U.S. firms are governed by the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which essentially states that any unauthorized access of another organization's computers could be considered a crime. Some states have computer trespass laws, and other countries have laws that might get a company into legal trouble for cracking others' computers if those others are cybercriminals, he notes.

In the above example, where code is attached to a bot, an automated tool might be seen by the courts as being similar to cookies or adware, which are not illegal, Willson says.

Companies could also use honeypots, which allow users to legally collect intelligence about their attackers, or beacons, which legally illuminate an attacker's trail, Willson says.

Hacking back should never be a company's first response, but in the case of a persistent attacker, it might be the only answer. "You might be spending $50,000 to $100,000 a week to battle a persistent threat" he says. "You've tried all of the traditional approaches. Calling law enforcement doesn't help -- they are simply overwhelmed with other cases. What do you do?"

The key is to stay within criminal law while taking your chances with civil law, Willson says. "Obviously, you don't want law enforcement turning around and coming after you," he says. "But if a hacker wants to sue you for unauthorized access, that might be a chance you're willing to take."

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Add a Comment" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message. Tim Wilson is Editor in Chief and co-founder of Dark Reading.com, UBM Tech's online community for information security professionals. He is responsible for managing the site, assigning and editing content, and writing breaking news stories. Wilson has been recognized as one ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: This comment is waiting for review by our moderators.
Current Issue
Security Operations and IT Operations: Finding the Path to Collaboration
A wide gulf has emerged between SOC and NOC teams that's keeping both of them from assuring the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of IT systems. Here's how experts think it should be bridged.
Flash Poll
New Best Practices for Secure App Development
New Best Practices for Secure App Development
The transition from DevOps to SecDevOps is combining with the move toward cloud computing to create new challenges - and new opportunities - for the information security team. Download this report, to learn about the new best practices for secure application development.
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2017-0290
Published: 2017-05-09
NScript in mpengine in Microsoft Malware Protection Engine with Engine Version before 1.1.13704.0, as used in Windows Defender and other products, allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code or cause a denial of service (type confusion and application crash) via crafted JavaScript code within ...

CVE-2016-10369
Published: 2017-05-08
unixsocket.c in lxterminal through 0.3.0 insecurely uses /tmp for a socket file, allowing a local user to cause a denial of service (preventing terminal launch), or possibly have other impact (bypassing terminal access control).

CVE-2016-8202
Published: 2017-05-08
A privilege escalation vulnerability in Brocade Fibre Channel SAN products running Brocade Fabric OS (FOS) releases earlier than v7.4.1d and v8.0.1b could allow an authenticated attacker to elevate the privileges of user accounts accessing the system via command line interface. With affected version...

CVE-2016-8209
Published: 2017-05-08
Improper checks for unusual or exceptional conditions in Brocade NetIron 05.8.00 and later releases up to and including 06.1.00, when the Management Module is continuously scanned on port 22, may allow attackers to cause a denial of service (crash and reload) of the management module.

CVE-2017-0890
Published: 2017-05-08
Nextcloud Server before 11.0.3 is vulnerable to an inadequate escaping leading to a XSS vulnerability in the search module. To be exploitable a user has to write or paste malicious content into the search dialogue.

Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
In past years, security researchers have discovered ways to hack cars, medical devices, automated teller machines, and many other targets. Dark Reading Executive Editor Kelly Jackson Higgins hosts researcher Samy Kamkar and Levi Gundert, vice president of threat intelligence at Recorded Future, to discuss some of 2016's most unusual and creative hacks by white hats, and what these new vulnerabilities might mean for the coming year.