Hacking Law

The latest Wikileaks dump shows just how fiendishly clever hackers are, and how almost nothing people say about hacking can be believed.

For instance the latest dump of CIA hacking tools show that hackers can leave other hackers’ fingerprints on the sites they’ve hacked.

So when we are told by people on the telly that it looks as though the Russians, the Chinese, the CIA or the Martians did a hack, that is just as likely to be baloney as not.

In the weird Kafka-esque hacker world nothing is as it seems and nothing, it seems, is ruled out.

“The CIA’s mission is to aggressively collect foreign intelligence overseas to protect America from terrorists, hostile nation states and other adversaries,” says the CIA in its response to the latest Wikileaks dump.

Fair enough. And, of course, it’s fair enough for every other nation state to do the same.

But what happens when an individual hacks a US government site? We’ve seen the US aggressively pursue such hackers demanding extradition and retribution.

But if nation states assume it is legitimate to hack, can it be illegitimate for individuals to hack?

Or is hacking like war – legitimised violence – whereas violence between people is illegitimate?

Clearly non-nation state hacking is becoming a real pain and needs to be criminalised with some harsh, high-profile punishments to deter its epidemic proportions..

International law has failed to  serve the needs of modern society by not providing a legal framework for hacking and hackers.



  1. Absolutely Duncan I think a lot of the inertia on prosecuting hacking stems from the belief in the West that ‘our hackers are better than their hackers’ so why level the hacking playing field by putting all hacking on a common legal basis?

  2. Yes DontAgree, there are defences to murder, whether based on religion or not, in every legal system. And, if there were laws against hacking there would undoubtedly be defences in the laws. The problem IMHO is that there seem to be no laws against hacking, and no convictions and punishments for hackers although hacking is forcing organisations all over the world to spend a fortune on protecting themselves against hackers.

  3. They probably consider the trade off between banks loosing a few $million to being able to create something like Stuxnet a worthwhile trade off.

  4. Surely you have heard of ‘honor killings’ which according to their religion and believes are totally justified because the victim violated a rule/law. And in the USA justice system is still killing some criminals that committed heinous crimes. So what constitutes ‘murder’ seems to be highly dependent on ones moral and ethical believe system (often based on religion).

    If we can’t agree on what is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ killing, what chance is there to agree on what is good or bad hacking?

    Also obviously the hacking hurts the Western world far more than other countries simply because in the Western world a lot more depends on computers/electronics than in the other countries. So from a tactical point of view hacking holds the leader back more than those trying to catch up … not surprising then that except for said leaders, the motivation to do something about the hacking problem is at best tepid.

  5. I think you’re right Duncan in the US hackers seem a glorified breed with hackathons and loads of conferences offering kit for hacking and lessons on how to hack and often, at these events, the CIA has a booth looking to recruit hackers. It’s totally weird to me.

  6. I wonder if the problem is that in the days before things like Internet Banking Hackers
    came across as Robin Hood type figures challenging the Big Evil Corporations.

    For example the first product produced and sold by the two guys who founded what is now the worlds
    most valuable company was a Blue Box for hacking the American telephone networks.

  7. Ah Yes, NSMO, maybe, as you say, you can sue on your own tab and time, but what I want to see are some high profile criminal cases with heavy punishments imposed to start deterring these b.s from causing pain, loss and aggravation to people and companies.

  8. The discussion about individual, NGO hackers, or government hackers spying on their own citizens, is probably a different issue and should involve some penalty. In UK law at least, where a loss can be shown legal redress is available – if you have the time and the money.

  9. Yes NSMO, if extended to nation states hacking each other, the principle of self-defence applies very nicely – they all hack eachother so they’re all justified in hacking eachother.. But most of us, including me, haven’t ever hacked anyone, so why should we be hacked without there being a criminal penalty for the hacker?

  10. Violence, even killing, between people is not illegitimate when performed in self defence, even in the (mistaken) belief that one’s life is under threat. This could be extended to hacking?

  11. It seems to me, DontAgree, that most countries, religious or not, have laws which punish murder, rape, theft etc etc and people get frequently tried, convicted and punished for these crimes. But, though hacking has become a b.nuisance and is costing a fortune to protect against, we don’t seem to have laws against it, prosecutions for it or convicted people punished for it. The only exception being that, every now and again, some deluded nerd gets shipped to the US for retribution and that seems to be about it.

  12. “International law has failed” well duh, it is kind a hard to agree on a law if you, for starters, cannot agree if religion should have an influence on government or not (or which religion). That is a rather fundamental difference between various countries. Essentially it all boils down to the same age old question ‘who is the boss’. Religion based countries will ‘say’ it is their God, but in the mean time their leaders then invariably go on to say that they represent their God. For secular governments it is supposed to depend on the government system (democratic or dictator), but ultimately it really is the rich and/or who has the biggest guns. None of these ‘leaders’ are willing to cede **ANY** power to any other entity.

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