I recently read a post about â€œActive Defenseâ€ or as some call it, hack back. I wonâ€™t reveal the author or the title so as not to disparage anyone. Certainly this topic is very sexy right now and many like to write about it, but most of articles I have seen constitute fear mongering with comments not based in fact or even sound theory, but ignorance of the topic, the laws, and the technology and appear to be an attempt to sensationalize the topic.
Yes, there is a problem. Yes, companies are suffering. Some of the companies have a legitimate complaint. They have done all they can and the government has tied their hands by saying things like, â€œif you hack back you are no different than the hackers.â€ A lot of companies, though, have no right to complain because their security really sucks, is like Swiss cheese and they are not willing to spend the money to fix it.
The blog I read recently quoted a former DoJ attorney who stated that it is illegal to go outside of your network and hack back at your attacker. In the next paragraph the writer quotes a so-called security expert who says his company has the capability to determine who attackers are and collect intelligence on them, and this is not illegal but good practice. The expert provides the usual, â€œdo not try this at home,â€ warning. I will leave it to you to decide whether this warning is good advice or simply self-serving.
So hereâ€™s my problem: These quotes claim on one hand it is illegal to attack your attacker but on the other hand not to take the steps necessary to determine who your attacker is? If determining who attackers are was really that easy and clearly lawful everyone would be doing it. Most would admit the greatest challenge with cyber crime is determining who the attacker is, e.g. Attribution. One of the great claims by those who believe â€œActive Defenseâ€ is illegal and immoral is that attribution is extremely difficult and if you canâ€™t determine attribution then you may be, â€œattacking an innocent victim.â€
As a side note to the above comment, and as I have said in previous blogs, if someone has been compromised and their server is being used to attack my company, that person is NOT innocent. A victim like me, yes, but innocent, no. If I have to disrupt his server to protect my company then so be it. Chances are that server owner does not want the other hundreds or thousands of companies who are victims of his server attacks to know that he is the patsy attacking them due to his crappy security
So, I would kindly ask those who like to write about â€œActive Defenseâ€ to please do some research, think the process through, stop confusing the issue and stop writing fear mongering comments like, â€œyou might start a war with China.â€