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Bankers vs. hackers: counterstrike

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Senior banking officials have reportedly called for permission to track down and disable hackers’ computers, essentially beating them at their own game.

The request comes in the wake of hundreds of attempted, and some successful, hacking campaigns against banks and a growing sentiment that as a constant target of cyber attacks banks are powerless to fight their assailants. Now, Dennis Blair, former director of national intelligence in the Obama administration has lobbied for online counterstrikes against hackers to be made legal.

Blair already drafted a proposal for electronic countermeasures in 2013, but it was stopped in its tracks. The main problem is that hackers are often located in countries outside Western jurisdiction, and can thus not be prosecuted without government cooperation.

Legally, the proposal seems a long way off. On both sides of the Atlantic, hacking in any form is illegal, whether it is as a counterattack or not. Even if counterstrikes were to be introduced, the technical issues with tracing and disabling a hacker’s computer are significant.

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