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Hacking back blurs line between active cyberdefense and cybercrime

With breaches on the rise, some advocate the legally ambiguous approach of hacking back. In this #GRCChat recap, participants discuss the perks and the pitfalls of active cyberdefense strategies.

When it comes to protecting your digital goods from hackers, should you take the high road or beat them at their own game? In the wake of recent cyberattacks, some companies are feeling pressure to adopt a more active cyberdefense strategy -- sometimes referred to as hacking back. While hacking back may not be mainstream, it's got vocal advocates in some quarters, including former National Security Agency General Counsel Stewart Baker.

Are active cyberdefense strategies a smart approach to protecting your digital properties and warding off attacks, or are they a reckless, unlawful approach that puts your organization -- and others -- at risk? In the recent SearchCompliance #GRCChat, our Twitter participants and site editors weighed the pros and cons of active cyberdefense strategies.

Are "hacking back" or "active cyberdefense" strategies an effective route to data security?

As hackers get smarter, the number of threats increase and the options for effective response dwindle, it's not hard to see why active cyberdefense strategies are under consideration at some organizations. The key to smart active cyberdefense is not taking it too far, said our #GRCChat-ters, who emphasized the importance of risk assessment in deciding whether to hack back:

Participants were quick to point out the potential legal penalties and collateral damage of hacking back:

Turning to honeypots, computer systems designed to "trap" anybody who attempts to breach another computer system, participants discussed the benefits and potential pitfalls of such systems with regards to cyberdefense:

One participant touched upon the difficulty in finding professionals with the talent to build active cyberdefense strategies, short of hiring the hackers themselves:

Do you think hacking back is an effective approach in protecting your data? Are the risks worth the rewards? Sound off in the comments section below.

Next Steps

To learn more about hacking back, check out SearchSecurity's definition of the term and its possible role in the enterprise. Then hear one CTO's take on the pitfalls of active cyberdefense. Finally, read about the ethical gray area surrounding hacking back.

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Would you ever consider using a hacking back approach? Why or why not?
In theory, "hacking back" is a sensible defense mechanism. But, I think businesses fail to ask themselves, "what do I hack back?"

Deciding to hack back means marking a target. I would do this if I can find enough information on them in my database/server to get them prosecuted. I'm weary on directly hacking the hacker, as it may start a war with much greater risks.

Always compare the downside and upside before acting!
Very good point, Steph49! Businesses not only need to ask themselves, "should I hack back," but also "who would I hack back." The possible targets should weigh heavily in the decision.