Denmark should update its cyber strategy and switch from a passive defense of its networks to an offensive against hackers from Russia, China, Iran and North Korea, Naser Khader, the Conservative chairman of the parliamentary defense committee urged.
"We shall hack those who are hacking us. We actually know who they are," Naser Khader told Danish Radio, proposing to start with the hacker group Fancy Bear, whom he blamed for meddling in the US election with the support of the Russian military intelligence service.
Khader rejected the idea that this would constitute an attack on a sovereign state, as the authorities tend to distance themselves from the hackers' activities. He added that Denmark cannot just step back and tolerate whatever cyberattacks may come.
"Officially, it will be a private group we shall attack. It would be a way to defend ourselves. And sometimes offense is the best defense," Khader explained the strategy, which Danish Radio described as "giving Putin a taste of his own medicine."
Khader stressed that he didn't propose concrete attacks, leaving this task to Danish intelligence services. However, he emphasized "as a lawmaker" that Denmark should become more assertive and go on the offensive. "We must do it wisely and in a clever way," Khader explained.
According to Khader, Russia is not the only country allegedly posing a threat to Denmark's cybersecurity. He also claimed China, North Korea and Iran to be waging hack attacks, so Denmark would have to target several enemies simultaneously.
However, Khader's proposal has been met with resistance. Danish People's Party defense spokesman Søren Espersen suggested that Khader had interfered with established procedures.
"It is not up to him or others to provide good advice to the intelligence service. They are professionals, they know what this is all about, they know the challenges, and they know what we have been exposed to in recent years. So, we're in safe hands and no good advice is needed," Espersen said.
Social Democrats defense spokesman Henrik Dam Kristensen stressed that a cyber offensive, suggested by Khader, needs ample justification.
"We should do this carefully. We cannot just go and start one big offensive in cyberspace. This would be foolish and hardly beneficial for Denmark," Dam Kristensen said.
Mikkel Storm Jensen, a researcher in cyber conflicts at the Danish Defense Academy, called this strategy "problematic," warning of a possible backlash. He also emphasized certain imminent problems, such as the burden of proof, and ethical ramifications, since it would imply punishing an alleged criminal in advance.
Denmark's current defense strategy includes the possibility of deploying cyberweapons in the virtual world. According to the Defense Ministry, virtually any target connected to the internet or part of a closed network can be attacked. For this capacity to be activated, though, approval from parliament must be obtained.