In reference to the question "Software which can decrypt into 2 different files depending on the password?", the first revision of an answer and the unfortunately deleted following discussion I'm asking, is recommending and/or linking possible illegal software (at some places) allowed, forbidden, wanted, not so welcome?

I found "Should we allow questions asking for software cracker, patcher or keygens?" and "Questions about software that some juridictions consider illegal" but they do not really give a final answer and this question is rather focused on privacy-related and cryptographic tools (which may be illegal by itself) than for instance penetration testing software which can be used for illegal activities …

And if yes, is there a special way how possible illegal software should be recommended? - Which kind of hint would be appropriate? Or any other type of tagging?

1 Answer 1


It is irrelevant whether software is/can be illegal, because that is defined by local authorities. As a user, I can't determine where an asker lives and which laws he should follow.

Furthermore, any other person (following other laws) can find recommendations where some other software you never thought about may be illegal. Additionally, you must add time as a factor: what is legal today can be illegal tomorrow, or the other way around.

just thinking about not recommending at other places possible illegal software will result in the worst kind of censorship, a global self-censorship:
it would result in not "talking" about chinese problems, expressing negative opinions about turkish emperor or even posting pictures/videos of women driving cars in the internet because it is somewhere in the world illegal.

additional i would say the poster itself should follow his local laws and maybe not recommend illegal software (especially with clear-name or any other identifier), if also recommending/linking is illegal at his place.

well... "A reminder that some software might have legal issues in some places cannot hurt." is correct, but i'm not sure how to identify possible illegal software, and how to hint... and this would generate a kind of FUD-atmosphere for the other readers.

  • I've copy-edited and separated out the top part of your answer. You present some great arguments for why we shouldn't be overly concerned about it. I'm not convinced that the middle section is entirely relevant - it contains possibly valid points, but is likely to invite political discussion (which we're, historically, not good at). I'd probably recommend removing the middle section to draw focus to your main point, but it's your call.
    – user46
    Commented Oct 11, 2016 at 17:06
  • So, can I ask for recommendations for ransomware that is easy to install, deploy, hard to track and produces a nice profit? How about software that destroys controlled devices such as electric grid controls? I think you need some kind of standards.
    – Ira Baxter
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 8:27
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    IF it is legal at your place, i think you should be free to recommend it...! - if i even could, i won't recommend any software in this case because it is obvious that it would be used for illegal activities. -- additional: if the questioner asks this way and uses this site for such questions i doubt he can/will use it (for illegal activities), and if so, he will be caught very soon. ;-) Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 12:30
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    @IraBaxter: you are right people need some kind of standards, but i doubt at the context of "new and quickly developing technology" and especially in a global sphere, laws can give them. // the more you are a specialist for a topic, the more important are your ethic principles. - one easy example: if you are a nuclear physicist it may be legal to publish and share knowledge with other physicist, or also to emigrate to North Korea and continue your work... but people with a minimum of ethical awareness would not do it. Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 12:35
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    a good quote i came across: "Computer scientists have a moral responsibility as well as a technical responsibility." - Tim Berners-Lee @ Weaving the Web Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 11:58

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