FBI targets companies that hire hackers to protect them against hackers

US businesses are frustrated by the federal government's weak response to hacker attacks. They are hiring cybersecurity firms to launch counterstrikes against foreign-based hackers. Now, that's something the FBI is eager to investigate.

In the U.S., companies are prohibited by the 30-year-old Computer Fraud and Abuse Act from gaining unauthorized access to computers or overloading them with digital demands, even to stop an ongoing attack.

The act exempts intelligence and law-enforcement activities, allowing the government to respond more aggressively than private-sector firms. There’s little indication, though, that military and intelligence agencies have used their most powerful tools to shut down attacks on businesses, as the U.S. has attempted to address foreign-based hacking through diplomacy and the courts.