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Hacking back will only get you in more trouble

Taylor Armerding | March 4, 2016
RSA panel warns there is no easy solution to online IP theft in response to economic espionage.

Painter said he thought some good has already come from the U.S.-China agreement. He said in the past China had not acknowledged any distinction between economic and political espionage, and now it has.

Also, while he said it will “take time to see if it works, it does set a standard of accountability – one that other G20 countries have agreed with.”

But Rosenzweig was less optimistic, saying the entire topic “makes me grumpy.”

That, he said, is because he believes economic espionage is “a policy problem, not a legal problem.”

Most countries have “robust” laws against the theft of IP, he noted, “but there is little enforcement.”

Besides that, those from other countries who steal from U.S. companies are frequently beyond the reach of the American justice system. “When, if ever, would we see extradition to the U.S.? The chances are pretty thin,” he said.

“So the law is inadequate – it has almost no utility unless you can bring people to justice.”

That, he said, leaves diplomatic avenues, including sanctions, “but the sanctions policy has yet to be used,” he said. “We’re in the middle of that story.”

Jessica Malekos Smith, law student at UC Davis School of Law, was also dubious about the effectiveness of available responses, again citing the difficulty of enforcing an agreement without foolproof attribution. She cited a Wall Street Journal article that she said called the U.S.-China agreement, “full of promise with no enforcement.”

The panelists agreed that more and better sharing of threat information might help, but Rosenzweig said most private sector firms, “don’t see the benefit as worth the cost – they see it creating more regulation and costing too much to put together the information.”


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