Canadian Hack Back

CyberlawEric Vanderburg

Back in November, I blogged about the hack back initiative here in the United States.  Well, similar debates are taking place in Canada.  In January of 2012, Public Safety Canada commissioned a report on hacking, specifically hacking related to online protesting and activism known as hacktivism.  The report recommended several exemptions to existing legislation to allow researchers, investigators and even journalists to hack into other computers.  Some of the hack back recommendations included allowing security researchers to attack and reverse engineer software in order to determine security concerns (Montreal Gazette), investigators to take additional actions in investigating attacks such as data breaches and malware and reporters to break into private computers to obtain information in the interest of public welfare (Postmedia).

Over the past year, a discussion has taken place between Public Safety Canada and the minister’s office on this subject resulting in a decision by Public Safety Canada on January 16, 2013 to reject the recommendations.  This is by no means a complete loss for those supporting hack back since such large scale initiatives often take years to implement.  Alana Maurushat, the author of the report wrote, “no surprise that there is no inclination to take up recommendations…these things often take decades of slow changes.”  The past year of discussion will increase awareness of the hack back initiative and we will most likely see other proposals in the future that will address the shortfalls of this proposal which Public Safety Canada has not provided.

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