Is there such a thing as an ethical hacker? And if so, what makes a hacker ethical?
Some of the most famous hackers and hacking incidents include Julian Assange, Anonymous, News International. These have all been involved in famous hackings in some form, but are they all the same? What makes them different? Are any of them ethical?
Julian Assange is an internationally famous personality and founder of the group Wikileaks. Wikileaks and Julian Assange are famous for gaining secret government information in questionable ways and sharing that information with the people of the world. Wikileaks clams that their goal is “to bring important news and information to the public”. Wikileaks effectively wants to share information that certain departments deem private, but it thinks should be public.
Anonymous is another organisation famous for hacking and protests. Anonymous is a group of hackers with no leader and no formal structure. Some events that have been associated with Anonymous include a ‘raid’ on the website Habbo Hotel, in which after a 2 year old child was refused entry into an Alabama swimming pool for having AIDS, members of anonymous all dressed Habbo avatars the same and blocked the entrance to the virtual pool and claimed that the “Pool’s Closed due to AIDS”. (My SA News, 2008)
Another event related to Anonymous, known on Wikipedia as ‘Operation Didgerdie’ was an attack on the website of the Prime Minister of Australia’s website in which the site was taken down for approximately one hour in response to planned internet censorship by the then Australian Government.
And now we come to the News International phone hacking scandal, in which certain staff at News International, the publishing company of News of the World and other British newspapers, hacked into people’s phones to receive personal information to be used in stories. That was it. They wanted the information to get stories to publish and sell more newspapers.
That’s where we come to the idea of ‘ethical hacking’. What’s the difference between the 3 examples listed above? For me, it lies with the motive of the hacking.
Assange and Wikileaks are involved in hacking of information because they believe that government information should be freely available to the public they were elected to serve.
Anonymous, while more unconventional, create online protests using hacking as ways to combat or raise awareness over issues it deems important.
New International used phone hacking as a way to gain information, to make more stories, to sell more newspapers and to make more money.
The idea of ethics comes down to motives.
Croteau, R, Net users insist ‘racist’ sign a joke, My SA News, viewed 27 September 2013, <http://web.archive.org/web/20080824174022/http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/local_news/Net_users_insist_its_joke.html>.