I've seen videos of "hackers" on YouTube infecting computers of tech support scammers. If the tech support scammer were to take a program from the person's computer, without their consent or knowledge, but the program turns out to be a virus and once they run it, it destroys the computer of the tech support scammer, is that considered distributing a virus?

And if so, is it a crime if that person's virus destroys a whole system of computers that the tech support scammer works on, even though the virus was taken off the person's computer without their knowledge/consent?

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    The title doesn't appear to match the question asked in the body of the question. Can you edit the question to clarify? May 17, 2018 at 1:12
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    Agreed. It is not illegal to create a computer virus. It is usually illegal to maliciously infect someone else's computer with it, although there are contemplated statutory exceptions as mentioned in an answer below.
    – ohwilleke
    May 17, 2018 at 7:03
  • One of the first computer malware was the Morris Worm. It did not harm per se; rather it just spread as a proof-of-concept due to a programming flaw in a internet facing application. Robert Tappan Morris was convicted. His dad was a chief scientist at the NSA and probably helped keep his son out of deeper hot water than someone else would have been subjected. Morris senior has some famous computer security quotes at Robert Morris (cryptographer).
    – jww
    Sep 19, 2018 at 22:34

1 Answer 1


In most jurisdictions, no - "hacking back" is a crime in most (all?) places - although there is discussion about "hack back" laws - but even these laws generally stop short of malicious behaviour. For example - read up on the CFAA", and note the lack of anything to protect you where you hack back.

As a rule, if another party commits a crime, and you commit a crime against them, both parties can be prosecuted for their crimes. This may not be true in civil matters however (because of the "Clean Hands" doctrine - ie if you did something wrong, and were thus wronged, don't go looking to the courts for a remedy)

I do note that a Virus is different from a binary, which, when run performs an action like deleting data. In the latter case, that would not be a virus (as it can not spread by itself), and you would most likely be in the clear.

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