“Cyber vigilantism” benefits no one: Websense

“Cyber vigilantism” benefits no one: Websense

Security vendor finds that some organisations are engaging in revenge attacks against perpetrators

No longer content to remain the victim, some organisations are starting to take a more offensive approach to security attacks.

It is a striking trend Websense A/NZ managing director, Gerry Tucker, saw in 2013, likely as a response to the growing number of targeted attacks taking place, such as ransomware.

“Normally if a business is attacked, they will spend time defending themselves,” he said.

“However, that is changing with some of them going after the attackers.”

Tucker warns about the pitfalls of going down this route, as it is essentially “cyber vigilantism” and there are potential legal implications.

Beyond the legal aspect, Tucker points out that it is often difficult to clearly identify who the real culprit behind an attack is.

“Many of the attacks that take place in instances where genuine sites and companies have become unwitting pawns in a scheme,” he said.

“If one company feels they have been hacked by another organisation and then go after them, attacking them may not be the right thing to do if it turns out they were just the ‘piggy in the middle.’”

While the urge to exact revenge is a strong in situations like this, Tucker highlights that all that is happening is one organisation disadvantaging another one.

Calm local tempers

Besides potentially getting the identity of the attacker wrong, Tucker said the other pitfall of going down this road is that it increases the potential for mistakes.

“That is potentially damaging to the cyber security environment, as is any form of vigilantism,” he said.

“If activities such as these become public, it can damage the reputation of cyber professionals.”

While Tucker does not have any direct evidence of a local organisation carrying out a revenge attack, he admits to having heard anecdotal evidence of certain businesses carrying out reprisals.

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