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In most part of US, people have the right to protect their own personal property with an appropriate amount of force.With this concept of personal property and a persons right to protect as background, the scenario is:-

An intruder enters your home using the internet, then intrudes into your personal computer which is inside the home,steals data and decamps.

Can the property owner use any form of force to protect their property using violence ? Would such an attack be considered lawful ? ( You called 911 and the dispatcher thought that the call deserved a 51-50 psychiatric hold, while the intruder stole documents from your laptop and installed a ransomware)

How would you "defend" your property in this situation ? If you "attacked" the intruder, would it be deemed unlawful ?

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    What does "enters your home using the internet" mean? And if, as in the question, the intruder has already decamped, violence cannot be 'protecting your property'. Sep 23, 2017 at 9:45

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I interpret the sentence "intruder enters your home using the internet" in the question as not as physically entering the home but as virtually entering the home, in other words hacking into the victim's home network remotely. When that interpretation is incorrect, please comment.


Note that an action can only be considered self-defense when the self-defense prevents a crime currently in progress from being completed. When A hacked into B's computer and then B punches A in the face later, that's not self-defense, that's illegal vigilante justice.

The self-defense argument would only work if it actually prevents the completion of the crime. For example, if A and B were in the same room, A sees B hacking into A's computer right now and uses physical force to prevent B from completing the hack (like yanking the keyboard out of B's hands).

Also keep in mind that the intensity of self-defense must be appropriate for the severity of the crime. What is and is not appropriate is for a court to decide in each individual case, and the guidelines that are to be applied vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. But causing bodily harm to people when the crime they are committing does not cause bodily harm is often not considered within the limits of self-defense.

For further information about what is and is not allowed in self-defense, I recommend the series about self-defense by Law Comic.

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  • Could A claim self-defense on a computer hacking charge if they hacked into B's computer in order to stop them from hacking into A's computer?
    – nick012000
    Jan 27, 2023 at 3:01

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