Monday, August 10, 2009

Hacking: Ethical or Unethical? You Decide...

When the term ‘hacker’ reaches to the ears of many people, it is usually associated to as a ‘criminal’, that is, because of the bad views related to the acts of crawling into and stealing information from websites. But that is what we perceived of in general since hacking is mainly related to doing bad acts electronically as what we’ve mostly taken notice of. What we do not know is the real side of it.

The computer term ‘hacker’ is being described by Microsoft Encarta as a computerphile or a person totally engrossed in computer programming and computer technology. In the advent of microcomputers and dial-up networking, hacker became a disapproving term as if often refers to someone who secretively invades others’ computers, inspecting or tampering with the programs or data stored on them.

But hacking can also be ethical. There are just some reasons why this should be considered as not purely illegal or unacceptable. NC State University gave a list of four justifications sometimes given for hacking:

1. All information should be free, and if it were free, there would be no need for intellectual property and security. I guess this is just one thing to think of especially to those who include proprietorship in their works. Information is streaming to and from all directions in the world. We give information because we gain information. And thus, I believe, that all information should be free, so we would not need to worry about copyright issues. This is one reason why ‘hackers’ try to steal information along the net because a lot of resources pose secured data that is supposed to be shared anyway.

2. Break-ins illustrate security problems and cause them to be fixed. Well, this is certainly one main point why several third parties could penetrate in to a system. It is because a certain company or organization did not have enough strong walls for the safety of its confidential data. That is, the system is vulnerable to other people’s curiosity and interest to the company’s information.

3. Hackers are doing no harm; they are just learning about how computer systems operate. And just we thought the idea is somewhat ridiculous, it is fairly valid.  Hackers, accordingly, are just ‘viewing’ information from sources. They don’t modify it. And if they do, they are termed ‘crackers’. Hacker also means someone who, beyond mere programming, likes to take apart operating systems and programs to see what makes them tick. Definitely, when you ‘explore’ the ‘world’ of a certain system or site, you can eventually learn. There may be times that we are already hacking but we don’t know it. It’s just that we may not know if we are already beyond the limits of exploring that we tend to touch some restricted spots. We don’t really know much but the exploits of hackers are being used by investigators in some parts of the country to solve cases.

4. Hackers break into systems to watch for abuse and hold “Big Brother” at bay. Hmm.. This is, I believe, a useful possibility of hacking. You see, it could be beneficial. I’ve surfed the net for this topic and have gotten into a forum where a certain author confessed that he was doing hacking even at a young age and it actually helped others. He helped add security by testing security. One could think of hacking the system being developed by his own company by checking the vulnerability of its system. In this way the computer system will have a chance for improvement in its weak areas. There was a guy in the states who posted child porn infected with a trojan so that anyone who downloaded the pictures would get infected and enable access to the hacker who would then go about gathering information for the cops.

In general, I should say, it is not only in the mere act of stepping into one’s private property but also in the intention of the one who does it. An ethical hacker may penetrate one’s email, hack the owner’s password just to access the files being kept confidentially by the company that the latter forgot to turn over or selfishly kept it or whatever thousand reasons he may have.

Well I guess most people tend to band together these types of people into one category. As far as I’ve researched, there are three kinds of hackers (I’m just not so sure if these are lay terms made by hackers themselves):

Black hat (crackers) – the bad guys who do evil things like writing viruses, breaking in to computer systems to steal credit card info and some stuff like that…

White hat – the so-called ethical hackers; the ones who do system penetration for companies and generally don’t go around for places where they shouldn’t be…

Grey hat – this is a mixture of the two; ethical in the sense, doing honorable means, unethical in the sense, by illegal acts. The previous example I gave (the guy who posted child porn…) is just one instance of this type of hacker.

Some would say it is not right to call the hackers the term in general for it would classify all the types into one and as we all know, hackers can be both good and bad. According to one of my references it is like calling a locksmith a burglar just because he has all the tools to he needs to break into your house although it does not necessarily he would really do it.

And as to the key question, is hacking ethical or unethical, for me, it can be both. I should say hacking can be justified. Just like anything else, whether good or bad. It all depends on the ‘purity’ of intention of the user.


Jan said...

Whooo..I also have a post about this topic in my personal blog. I believe that there are two kinds of hacker in the world and it all depends on how the hacker does his act. Ethical hackers are those people who their talent of hacking in a positive way like hacking a certain system to find out its weaknesses and to be able to remedy it, these are the ethical hackers. However, there are also unethical hackers, these are the people who acquire unauthorized access to a certain system and peep into the information in that system and they do destroy the system or use it for their own good. hehe.

Kate said...

hi, cham!

when it comes to hacking, i think that the issue of it being ethical or not depends heavily on the hacker's MOTIVE. and later, we could also consider the "ripples" (or after-effects) of the hack.

charmaine said...

To Jan...i second the motion.

I've read your blog post about hacking too.. :-)

Thanks for dropping a comment..

charmaine said...

To Kate..tnx for the comment. :-)

What you said about the matter is really true. Whichever it is, ethical or not, the thing that differs from the other is the person's intention in hacking.

Anonymous said...

I do not disagree with the views already expressed. I would however like to approach the issue from a different point of view. It seems that the major obstacle is the assumption of morality in the act of hacking. I saw the mentioning of one kind of hacker associated with a white hat and another associated with a black hat. But in practice the logic behind hacking is firmly cemented in the principles of Machiavello. And then by simple association we can assume that as long as the information is used according the benefit of some group and... well thats all there really is...... . If then as a consequence of the use the law decides to interfere or intervene with that it will depend on too many factors but none of them are based on morality