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US gov’t should have CYBERCOM ‘hack back’ against attacks, intel experts say

Laptop computer with code (PXhere/Released)
June 21, 2018

A cyber security panel this week encouraged the U.S. government to adapt a retaliatory strategy against cyberattacks from foreign entities and rogue hacking groups.

Experts say that “hacking back” would allow for stolen data to be retrieved or deleted and limit the impact of the attack, CyberScoop reported.

Three members of the panel with experience in the private sector, intelligence community and military agreed that if companies feel compelled to retaliate against a cyber threat, they should enlist the help of the U.S. government.

Furthermore, if hacking back is seen as a viable option, it should be left up to U.S. Cyber Command (CYBERCOM) to carry it out.

“I think if it’s going to happen, it’s best in the hands of the government,” said Sean Weppner, chief strategy officer at NISOS Group and a former Department of Defense cyber officer.

Weppner also confirmed that currently, no private company has the intelligence, offensive tools and contextual understanding of the U.S. government.

Alex Bolling, former chief of operations at the CIA’s Information Operations Center, claimed that attacks on U.S. critical infrastructure, in particular, should warrant a response from the government.

CYBERCOM is the “agency that is best resourced to respond to threats to [U.S.] national interests… [and] critical infrastructure in the energy, finance and wider commercial space,” Bolling said.

Currently, about 85 percent of U.S. critical infrastructure is privately owned.

Private firms going after hackers would encourage a kind of cyber vigilantism, the panelists said.

However, the heavy lifting would be left up to the U.S. government.

Still, such a policy could lead to unforeseen consequences that may inadvertently disrupt U.S. intelligence and military operations or spark further, more serious counter attacks.

For now, even if companies did have the necessary tools and know-how, they are not legally allowed to hack back.

Companies are not allowed to access computers outside their own network without expressed permission.