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Help stop my friend from trying to hire a black-hat hacker
December 18, 2013 2:13 PM   Subscribe

Someone very close to me is involved in a UK libel/defamation case as plaintiff. They want to hire a black-hat hacker to 'improve' their case. I want to stop them from doing so.

The case is pretty clear - the defendants have indeed defamed them.

Some of the defamatory material has been released to them and their lawyer, and while it will be long process, it is clear that the defendants will lose if and when the case actually comes to court.

However, the person close to me does not believe that all of the defamatory material has been released.

As such, being completely convinced that the defendants possess further material defamatory to them which they have not released, they have decided that it is a good idea to attempt to hire a black-hat hacker to hack into the defendants computers in order to get hold of this material.

They have approached me to help them do this as they believe that I know about 'hacking'.

That's because I used to work in IT, as a back-end web developer writing Perl.

With such a background, I know a little bit about security, of course, but nothing whatsoever about this kind of thing, other than that it is always a really bad idea.

I have tried my utmost but so far have been entirely unable to persuade them that their current chosen course of action is about the most stupid thing they could possibly be doing at this point.

Please help me come up with arguments to convince them not to do this.
posted by motty to Computers & Internet (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Please help me come up with arguments to convince them not to do this.

Don't argue with your friend. They should already know this is illegal, and even if successful, will not help their case. You don't need to convince your friend of this.

Simply say, "I'm not able to help you." Leave it at that. Respond to any further query with, "as I said, I'm not able to help you." If your friend presses the issue, you should reconsider your relationship with them.

Also consider informing your friend's solicitor of these plans. Their solicitor will have a much better chance of convincing them of the error of their ways than you would. Further, the solicitor has much better ways of leveraging their authority than you do (for instance, to stop representing your friend and/or reporting this to relevant legal parties).
posted by saeculorum at 2:19 PM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


If the defamatory material isn't in the public domain then how can it be libel?
posted by laukf at 2:20 PM on December 18, 2013 [9 favorites]


"If you do this and are caught you will lose your case, and will face criminal charges."
posted by blue_beetle at 2:22 PM on December 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


tell your friend to discuss this with his solicitor first. that's what client-facing lawyers are called over there.
posted by bruce at 2:23 PM on December 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


How exactly does he think this illegally obtained information will help his case, as it can't very well be presented as evidence? How does he intend to prove it even came from the computers in question?
posted by showbiz_liz at 2:26 PM on December 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


it seems like with how little they know about what they want (hence them thinking you could help them with it) that they are unlikely to find an actual hacker to do what they're looking for. turn down their request, side eye them, and move on with your life.

...also, depending on the relationship of this person to you, realize they're showing you something about their ethics and you should keep that in mind when dealing with them on unrelated issues.
posted by nadawi at 2:31 PM on December 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


oh, and another thing...

"a successful hackjob requires the utmost knowhow and execution. you may think you're a criminal mastermind like professor moriarty, but the fact is, you're not. you're too dense to pull this off. how do i know this? well, you blabbed it to me, and because i care for you, i promptly turned around and reblabbed it on a prominent website with tens of thousands of users, some of them right here in london with us..."
posted by bruce at 2:38 PM on December 18, 2013 [22 favorites]


Try to explain the difference between justice and revenge? Because it sounds like your friend is angling for revenge.
posted by mcstayinskool at 2:38 PM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Does your friend want to end up in criminal court for hacking a computer to prove a libel case? Tell him to talk to his solicitor about why this is a bad idea.
posted by Dasein at 2:40 PM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you find a "black hat hacker" that is willing to do this for you only for a paycheck, you have found someone who will either rip you off or make the situation worse.

There are no hackers for hire. They don't exist. The things you see in video games and movies aren't real.

There are people that can get the information your friend requires, but they won't do it for your friend. Your friend, and people like your friend, won't be able to find the people that can do it. Even if they could be found, they would slyly escape the plea for help. No one that can do this work does this work for money.

Your better bet would be a private investigator, who are trained on how to make things legit, know they right people to call favors in for and don't participate in things that are patently illegal.
posted by bensherman at 2:45 PM on December 18, 2013 [13 favorites]


Go through his lawyer, who will point out that even if this cockamamie scheme went undetected no lawyer could ever present it in court.

However, they might think they've just got a bad lawyer. They might listen to a friend where they would not listen to a lawyer. Given that you like him/her and want him/her not to go to prison, it's worth not giving up.

Try a line of attack you haven't tried before. Repetition will not help. Use what you know about him/her to try to find a way in.

Openly laughing at this ridiculous scheme might get through to him/her. It is not a serious idea, and he/she should not think for a moment that it is worth taking seriously. Only the possible consequences are serious.

Also consider the nuclear option: telling them that because they have talked to you you will be required to testify against them in court if they do it. That would probably cost you the friendship, but it would probably be sufficient deterrent to keep them out of jail.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 2:58 PM on December 18, 2013


If the defamatory material isn't in the public domain then how can it be libel?

Because defamatory statements do not need to be in the public domain. Defamation can occur if the statement is communicated to a single person in a private conversation.

OP, I would just tell your friend, "I will not help you break the law".
posted by Tanizaki at 3:00 PM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Let's say the black-hat hacker is successful at retrieving said incriminating evidence. That evidence is collected through illegal means, and thus likely very difficult, if not impossible, to be directly admissible in court. How does your friend expect to use this evidence to further his or her legal case? You have a rational argument that, regardless of the morality or immorality of breaking into computer systems, any resulting information would be very difficult to bring into his or her suit.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:09 PM on December 18, 2013


"Enjoy immediately blowing all the money from this lawsuit on your criminal conspiracy trial!"
posted by showbiz_liz at 3:18 PM on December 18, 2013


hire a black-hat hacker to hack into the defendants computers in order to get hold of this material

It sounds like they want to hire a hacker to delete the material that has not been posted yet, thus preventing any further defamation.

Whoever is defaming your friend will have copies of the defamatory material somewhere on the cloud. Hacking into their computer will not guarantee they'll be able to delete everything.
posted by clearlydemon at 3:35 PM on December 18, 2013


"Nothing you do will be admissible in court, and if you're caught - which you will be, because you would have material you couldn't possibly have gotten without breaking the law - you will face criminal charges. So you'll be risking jail time for something that can't help your case. Huge risk, no reward. Furthermore, no one who will take your money for this will actually be able to do it.

Finally - thought it'll be a long process, you know you'll win when it goes to court. Don't score an own goal here. Take yes for an answer."
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 3:42 PM on December 18, 2013


This is a very bad idea and also a criminal offence under the Computer Misuse Act 1990.
posted by essexjan at 4:04 PM on December 18, 2013


In English common law there is what is known as "The Doctrine of Clean Hands":
Unclean hands, sometimes called the clean hands doctrine or the dirty hands doctrine, is an equitable defense in which the defendant argues that the plaintiff is not entitled to obtain an equitable remedy because the plaintiff is acting unethically or has acted in bad faith with respect to the subject of the complaint—that is, with "unclean hands".
In other words, your friend now stands to win his case, but if he engages in black-hat hacking and is discovered doing so, his case could be thrown out of court irrespective of the merits.

If he wants to find out that stuff, "discovery" is the right way to do it. His lawyers will know.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 4:38 PM on December 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


Presumably, since your friend has a lawyer/solicitor, said lawyer is advising friend's case. There is not a lawyer in God's Creation, and certainly not in the UK, who would recommend this course of action, on pain of being disbarred, among other things.

Tell your friend that smart litigants don't ask friends for advice, they ask their lawyers. And then they do what their lawyers tell them to do. FFS.
posted by spitbull at 5:11 PM on December 18, 2013


If I were of no morals and capable of retrieving what your friend seeks, I would also likely black mail him to keep quiet.

This is an all around dumb ass idea.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 5:11 PM on December 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


If any of this story is true, then just call the cops and be done with it. Why drop a long list of identifying information about the alleged conspiracy on an internet message board under the guise of asking for advice?
posted by 99percentfake at 7:44 PM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


"If someone's unethical enough to break in and steal defamatory information about you, why wouldn't they be unethical enough to use it against you?"
posted by klangklangston at 7:54 PM on December 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


"The more people who have this material, the greater the chance of it getting out." That argument goes straight to their biggest fear.

Elaborate from there -- hackers' computers are sometimes the targets of other hackers (is that true?); hackers' computers are sometimes seized in government raids, with the contents saved in evidence files; an unethical hacker might use it to blackmail you (and how would you stop him or her? it's not like you could call the cops or sue them)...
posted by salvia at 11:49 PM on December 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Only white hat hackers can be trusted to keep the things they find under them.
posted by flabdablet at 8:54 AM on December 19, 2013


Show him the article from this FPP; although it involves hiring a hitman, much of it would apply to hiring a hacker as well.
posted by TedW at 11:24 AM on December 19, 2013


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