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Revenge hacking: Still illegal, despite good intentions

Imagine being in charge of a major business. You've witnessed hacking destroy lives through the Equifax debacle, and you know that you have information that people could want to hack as well. You think the best plan is to set up your own hacking endeavor. If someone hacks you, you can hack back, right?

Unfortunately, that's not how it works. Known as revenge hacking, the process of hacking someone who has previously or is currently hacking you is not a legal act. Hacking breaks many laws, and even if it's done with the good intention of destroying stolen data or the original hacker's system, that doesn't make it right.

It's no secret that major organizations often use hacking to protect themselves, but it's not something that's spoken about often. Hacking back, also known as active defense, is one of the only ways to protect servers and data in the information age. Sometimes, companies only booby-trap their files, but others have an active hacker on the network prepared to defend the company's systems.

Hacking back can sometimes help investigators learn who is responsible for a crime. The issue comes down to whether or not that evidence, which is obtained illegally, could be used in court. In the United States, those who hack are in violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and they could face prosecution, even though it was their help that stopped a far-worse crime.

If you're accused of hacking back, you probably had your reasons for doing so. With the right defense, you can show why what you did wasn't a crime and shouldn't be treated as one.

Source: Daily Beast, "Revenge Hacking Is Hitting the Big Time," Joseph Cox, Sep. 19, 2017

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