Can a company 'hack back' to retrieve stolen secrets?

American corporations are on hight alert on the hacking front after a series of attacks coming from China.

President Obama sat down with a group of CEOs at the White House today to talk about strategies to protect their companies' confidential business information from the threat of cyber attacks.

But what happens when a company has already been attacked? Kim Zetter, senior writer for Wired, says that companies can't "hack back," or try to retrieve stolen data.

"You can be self-defensive, you can protect yourself against an attack. You can't go back after the hacker or the computer that appears to be attacking you because that's basically doing what the attacker is doing," said Zetter.

President Obama signed an executive order last month designed to make it easier for the government to warn private companies of cyber threats and to set up a system of voluntary cybersecurity standards. The government is in a better position than corporations to fight back after a company has been hacked.

"The government can take certain legal measure," Zetter said. "They can go after the servers and get them taken down. They can't hack the servers, but they can go after the authorities who host the servers and get those taken down."

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, the most widely heard program on business and the economy in the country.


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