Hacking Back

Overview

  • "Hacking back" refers to a retaliatory and offensive cyber act against a hacker. The legality of such conduct is the subject of significant debate in both Australia and abroad.

Background

  • "Hacking back" generally refers to the proactive steps taken by the victim of a cyberattack to turn the tables on its assailant in order to:
    • identify the source of an attack, including by probing a cybercriminal's infrastructure for weaknesses or snippets of information that could reveal who is behind an attack;
    • thwart or stop the crime, including by disabling the hacker's malware, or launching distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks; or
    • destroy or steal back what was taken, including by remotely breaking into a target's servers and wiping any data including stolen information or intellectual property.
  • See Gavin Smith and Valeska Bloch, 'The hack back: The legality of retaliatory hacking' (Allens Insight, 17 October 2018)
  • In Australia, computer intrusion and unauthorised access to or modification of data (including data destruction) are offences that were introduced into the Criminal Code via the Cybercrime Act 2001 (Cth). Hacking a hacker outside one's own network therefore runs the risk of committing a criminal offence.

Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) ('Criminal Code')

  • Parts 10.7 and 10.8 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) ('Criminal Code') criminalise the following offences:
    • Computer intrusions
    • Unauthorised modification of data, such as the destruction of data
    • Unauthorised impairment of electronic communications, such as denial of service attacks
    • Creation and distribution of malicious software (such as malware, viruses and ransomware)
    • Dishonestly obtaining or dealing in personal financial information

Regulatory & Policy Framework

Relevant Organisations

Industry Materials

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