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ragingloli's avatar

A question for Computer Scientists: How feasible is an "offensive firewall"?

Asked by ragingloli (35789 points ) December 20th, 2013

By that I mean a firewall, that, when it detects an intrusion, automatically starts a counter attack against the aggressor (NSA), to wreak havoc on their systems/network.

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11 Answers

funkdaddy's avatar

Very feasible, you can fire off just about anything you want with existing firewalls and software for whatever conditions you want to look for.

But it has the same risk/reward as any attack. You don’t get a pass for attacking a government network because they probed your network first.

jerv's avatar

Technically, quite feasible.

Legally… not so much. As @funkdaddy pointed out, attacking a system is attacking a system, even if they attacked you first. Against a normal hacker, this is a minor legal problem. Against a government, you’ll be lucky to get a trial.

ragingloli's avatar

@jerv
Would it not fall under self defence or the castle doctrine? Someone should test that in Texas.

dabbler's avatar

I agree it’s technically quite feasible. Some very interesting ideas are explored in science fiction, I’m thinking of William Gibson’s Burning Chrome and other cyber-space works.

Legally it’s a real liability. In order to avoid problems you’d somehow need to confine the activity and effects to ‘your property’ if you want to claim self-defense.

I have no doubt that many nations with cyber ‘defence’ programs have aggressive counter-measure capabilities, and attack capabilities. I would also not be surprised at all to find that large corporations have some similar capabilities but keep that very quiet to avoid bad PR and lawsuits.

jerv's avatar

The Castle Doctrine doesn’t allow you to follow a robber home and burn down their house.

gorillapaws's avatar

@jerv lol, that made my morning.

Very feasible, as others said, not really legal. The other problem with an automated attack is that it’s going to be firing blind so-to-speak. Normally someone attacking a system will research as much as they can find out about their target machine before attacking it. An offensive firewall will simply spam everything it can at the attacker in hopes something would stick in all liklihood.

ragingloli's avatar

@jerv
Stand-your-ground laws, in that case. worked for Zimmerman.

jerv's avatar

Define “your ground” as it applies to virtual space.

jerv's avatar

To clarify a bit, in meatspace, property lines are easily defined, and it’s easy to tell whether someone is on your property. In cyberspace, their virtual location doesn’t match their physical location, but pretty much everything between your modem and their modem is not your property; you’d be chasing them down, which by itself puts you in a dark grey area legally. The ISPs have pretty clear rules about using their network for illegal activities, and using their network for such counter-attacks is, at best, of questionable enough legality that they could (and likely would) cut off your internet just to cover their own ass.

Also, the use of proxies and spoofing makes hitting the wrong target likely enough that it’s less like shooting a home intruder and more like lobbing a grenade into the middle of a crowd where you thought you saw someone who looked like the intruder. Ponder the liability issues on that for a moment.

In cyberpunk, there are two types of people who use such IC; those who commit other, more major felonies anyways, and corporations that are more powerful than any government. Which are you? Are you a major multinational megacorporation, or a felon that already lives outside the law,constantly looking over their shoulder to avoid prison?

rojo's avatar

Isn’t there some kind of historical precedent for hunting them down and “civilizing” them that we could fall back on?

jerv's avatar

@rojo Only governments and churches have the authority to hunt people down.

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