Imagine that I am some random person in an ordinary democratic country. Can I hack or spam or scam hostile foreign governments?

E.G. a DDOS attack on the servers of the Russian Rosgvardia or black fax the Iranian defense ministry or scam the Niger junta out of money.

Let´s just say that I am in America to keep things simpler.

  • Russia could argue that it is an act of war. Without a letter of marque and reprisal, private citizens are not allowed to do that.
    – o.m.
    Commented Sep 24, 2023 at 17:48

2 Answers 2


Since you ask about US law, I will limit my response to US law. There is no single answer, given the breadth of the question, hence I focus on the last option, junta-scamming. Assume that you adopt the strategy of the 419 scam, and send an email to Abdourahamane Tchiani promising to deposit $100B in his account, you just need some earnest money ($100M). He delivers but you do not. You have violated 18 USC 1343, fraud by wire, radio, or television. No part of the law makes an exception for individuals whom you deem to be bad, in some way. The law includes victims everywhere, not just in the US (electronic "communication in interstate or foreign commerce"). There is a difference between email scams and in-person scams: if you travel in person to Niger and have a talk with the general, you would be prosecuted under Nigeriénne law, not US law.

  • Nigeriénne law... You mean you are put in a tiny cell till you cough up the money or the guy you scammed gets too fed up, and then have a tragic accident
    – Trish
    Commented Sep 25, 2023 at 13:08

It depends on definition of the offence. E.g. if the offence is fraud (such as would likely be the case if one "scams" another out of money), it does not matter that the victims are outside of Canada. This is because the offence is defined with respect to victims described as "the public or any person."

See Re Chapman, [1970] 3 O.R. 344 (C.A.):

If there is an initiation of a fraudulent scheme in Canada (as was the case here in the mailing out of the letters of solicitation) and a realization thereof in Canada through receipt of money or securities intended to be brought in through the scheme, the offence has been committed in Canada although the inducement has extended only to persons outside Canada. In short, "the public or any person" in s. 323(1) are not limited to the Canadian public or to persons in Canada.

  • Scam in this sense was meant to be different from regular scams. For example, doing math about just how much Russia´s governmental agencies have stolen in their own kleptocratic machinations and returning that to their victims, not to steal to benefit myself. Commented Sep 25, 2023 at 0:47

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