Giving Chase in Cyberspace

Does Vigilantism Against Hackers and File-sharers Make Sense?

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In the debate over identity theft and online security, commentators often note that markets and private actors are better equipped than regulators to counter cybersecurity breaches and instances of copyright infringement. This paper considers an extreme instance of cybersecurity self-help: that of attacking the attackers.

Internet vigilantes are already at work: The 419 Flash Mob, for example, works to disable and report to authorities the websites of “phishers” who trick users into entering their information on phony websites made up to look like those of real banks and merchants. Recently, 419 enlisted as many Internet users as possible over a 48-hour period to launch attacks on Web servers used by criminals.