Retaliatory attacks on cyber crooks reportedly sparks FBI probe

The FBI is investigating whether some U.S. companies have been hacking back at cyber crooks, according to the news organization Bloomberg.

Citing interviews with security professionals, Bloomberg said “a growing number of companies” are considering ways “to break into hackers’ networks to retrieve stolen data or even knock computers offline to stop attacks”

“In one case,” it added, “the Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking into whether hackers working on behalf of any U.S. financial institutions disabled servers that were being used by Iran to attack the websites of major banks last year.”

JPMorgan Chase had advocated such a move in a private meeting in February, but a bank spokesman said no action was taken, according to Bloomberg.

Security experts have long warned that hacking back at cyber criminals can have unintended consequences. For one thing, the crooks often hijack other peoples’ computer systems, so disabling those systems can wind up hurting innocent parties.

In addition, because some cyber attacks are believed to be launched by nation states, hacking back at them might be regarded as an attack on those nations, a dangerous move that only government officials should consider.

Illustration by KRT archives


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