Pen testing 1 JOShGM7
Pen testing 1 JOShGM7

Countries Where Penetration Testing Is Illegal and Legal


The need for strong cybersecurity measures is more pressing as the world becomes more digitized. Penetration testing, or ethical hacking, has emerged as an essential tool in defending against potential cyber threats. A penetration or pen test is a simulated cyber attack against your computer system to check for exploitable vulnerabilities. Pen testing, as fondly called, can have these various testing methods, including external testing, internal testing, Blind testing, double-blind testing, and targeted testing. These testing procedures generally entail identifying and exploiting system vulnerabilities in a controlled and secure manner.

While penetration testing is widely accepted and encouraged in many countries, it is strictly prohibited in others. Unauthorized penetration testing in such countries can result in severe legal consequences, including hefty fines, imprisonment, and deportation of foreign nationals. Individuals and organizations must therefore understand various countries’ legal and regulatory frameworks governing penetration testing.

This blog post briefly examines the legal landscape of penetration testing in various countries. By investigating the regulatory environment, individuals and organizations can easily avoid legal pitfalls and ensure their cybersecurity strategies follow applicable laws and regulations. We will examine several countries’ legal frameworks and provide insights into the most important factors to consider when conducting penetration testing.

Countries Where Penetration testing is illegal (i.e., Heavily regulated)

Below is the list of some countries where penetration testing is heavily regulated

  1. Germany – In Germany, penetration testing is subject to the German Criminal Code (StGB) and the German Federal Data Protection Act (BDSG). It is required to obtain permission from the owner of the IT infrastructure before conducting any penetration tests. (Source: ICLG
  3. United Kingdom – In 1990, the Computer Misuse Act (CMA) was created to regulate lawful access to computer data. This law prohibits unauthorized access to data and modifying stored information without the owner’s consent. It is illegal to gain unauthorized access to computer systems, according to the CMA. The UK National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) also guides how organizations can perform penetration testing legally and ethically. (Source: CSO, National Cyber Security Centre
  4. India – Before conducting a penetration test in India, the tester must obtain authorization from the management. The test should then be carried out within the predefined limits. Various legal and regulatory frameworks govern penetration testing activities in India, including the IT Act, the IPC, RBI guidelines, the National Cyber Security Policy, and PCI DSS. (Source: EC-Council Global Services
  5. Singapore – According to section 3(1) of the Computer Misuse Act 1993 (“CMA”), it is illegal for a person to intentionally make a computer perform any task to gain unauthorized access to a program or data stored in the computer. Penetration testing is only allowed with the explicit permission of the owner of the system being tested. It must comply with the guidelines provided by the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA). (Source: ICLG
  6. United States – The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act 1986 (CFAA) prohibits accessing computer systems without authorization, which includes penetration testing. Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) also prohibits pen testing. NIST publishes various cybersecurity standards and guidelines, including those related to penetration testing. (Source: ICLG
  7. Japan – In Japan, several laws and regulations govern penetration testing activities. The primary laws regulating penetration testing in Japan are the Protection of Personal Information (APPI) and the Information and Communications Network Act (ICNA). (Source : Japan: Data Protection & Cyber Security
  8. Canada – Conducting unauthorized penetration testing can be deemed a violation under the Canadian Criminal Code. (Source: ICLG
  9. Australia – Performing penetration testing on a system or network without obtaining consent from its owner or administrator is classified as unauthorized access, a violation of the federal Criminal Code Act 1995, and hence, is deemed illegal. (Source: ICLG
  10. France -In France, when conducting penetration testing, it is necessary to adhere to legal requirements, including the French Data Protection Act, the French Penal Code, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and guidelines established by ANSSI. Additionally, the testing must be authorized by the system owner and conducted with the consent of the system’s individuals. (Source: ICLG
  11. South Korea – The primary law that governs penetration testing in South Korea is the Act on Promotion of Information and Communications Network Utilization and Information Protection (from now on, the “Network Act”) and the Enforcement Decree of the Network Act. (Source: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  12. China – Regulations on Internet Security Supervision and Inspection by Public Security Organs (effective November 1, 2018): These regulations give the police and other public security agencies the authority to conduct cybersecurity inspections and investigations, including penetration testing, on companies operating in China. Other organizations must obtain the necessary permissions and approvals from the relevant authorities before conducting any penetration testing activities to avoid running afoul of these laws and regulations. ( source: ZDNet
  13. Russia: The country’s chief regulation governing information security is the Federal Law on Technical Protection of Information No. 149-FZ, which outlines the standards for safeguarding information. As per this law, any penetration testing endeavor necessitates the approval of the system owner being tested. Furthermore, only licensed security firms or individuals with the requisite technical knowledge and experience are authorized to conduct such tests. (Source: WTO)

Countries where Penetration Testing is Legal 

In most nations, pen testing is legal as long as consent from the owner is obtained. Some of the most prominent countries include, 

  1. Germany: The German Criminal Code allows for ethical hacking with the owner’s consent. Source: Germany Ministry Of Justice.
  2. Netherlands: The Dutch Criminal Code allows for ethical hacking with the owner’s consent. 
  3. Switzerland: The Swiss Criminal Code permits ethical hacking as long as the person doing the hacking has legal authority or the owner’s consent. Source: The Federal Council of Switzerland

It’s important to note that ethical hacking laws and regulations vary by country, state, province, or territory. Furthermore, some countries may need explicit laws governing ethical hacking instead relying on existing laws governing computer crimes and hacking.

Furthermore, several countries have begun to consider a cyberspace operations strategy modeled on the actions of other states that have outsourced the cyber operations components of their military and intelligence communities. Russia and China, for example, have promoted “patriotic hacking” to support their nations’ efforts in preparation for a potential conflict or even during one. The civilian hacker community has been used in these countries to gather intelligence and create cyber effects that support conventional military operations and other coercive actions. Other countries, with limited ability of a professional cyber force, have argued that it is necessary to “fight fire with fire” and follow the lead of the Russians and Chinese.

What are your thoughts on ethical hacking? Do you agree all countries should legalize it? Comment with your thoughts, and check out our massive work on compliance and security.

Leave a Reply