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Hacker Ethics
Kim Bissett
Sabrina Short
Hacker Ethic: In General
 Freedom
of Information
The web is not physical; it couldn’t be
interpreted as property, so it can be accessed
by the public
 Security/Privacy
Hackers do not want a real-life Big Brother
society (from Orwell’s 1984). During the 80s,
they discovered a major flaw in a credit firm,
where the general public did not know that the
firm was collecting their information
Hackers do have ethics!
Hackers maintain a
trust system; the
subculture operates in
a tight network
 Hackers are not
entirely good, nor are
they just as bad.
 Intentions are based
on utilitarianism
Boundaries in the Hacker Ethic
They can target government
and corporate systems, but not
those of an individual or a
nonprofit organization. The
cause of the organization is
The hackers should share
information with others within
the group. They cannot brag,
expose their knowledge to the
outside world, spy on users, or
trash systems.
Kevin Mitnick
Hacked into the NORAD system in the 1980s
Convicted and sent into prison on two occasions
(1988 and 1995)
 On the second time, Mitnick broke into an email
system (not known if he was spying on it, which
would violate the hacker ethics.)
 If he was caught the first time, Mitnick should
have kept a lower profile.
 Hackers get exposed to the mainstream, mostly
by the government, when they disregard the
secrecy set forth by the hacker ethic.
Cyberactivism and Hacktivism
Cyberactivism is a form of protest that alerts society of
social problems, such as poverty, through listservs,
virtual sit-ins, and creating websites to attract the
attention of the public.
The computer is proving to be a new medium for the 21st
Cyberactivism and Hacktivism 2
 Hacktivism
is the intentional vandalism of
websites that do not support or alert the
attention of social problems.
 Such political clash can cause jeopardy in
national identity.
 This is an extreme form of cyberactivism,
therefore it is not practiced as much.
 New protest techniques used in the WTO
Protests,Battle in Seattle, in 1999.
Kant’s Philosophy
German philosopher Immanuel Kant
– determined by the action rather than
the intent or outcome.
– moral ideal that action out weighs
– All actions should be guided by moral
laws, and these laws are universal.
Duty is what counts!
what we want is of no importance;
duty is what counts.
– Hacking into systems to gain
knowledge of the software or to point
out flaws is wrong, even if no damage
is done to the system.
Breaking and Entering- if you break
into someone’s house, but don’t
take anything or break anything
you are still committing a crime.
– Taking away a person’s sense of
information IS property
According to United Kingdom, with the
Criminal Damage Act of 1971.
– Offender in the UK was convicted of property
damage even though the property was not
tangible and the damage could only be
determined by the machine.
The Computer Misuse Act of 1990
– “unauthorized access”
– “data modification”
– makes crimes easier to prosecute.
Public Information
Some information on the internet is
made accessible to the public.
– but should not be destroyed or edited
without authorization.
Other information that is not
purposefully made accessible
– Account numbers and personal
information should not be sought after
regardless of one’s intentions.
International Legislation
International groups like the United
Nations and the Council of Europe are
writing legislation that applies
Three types of Cybercrime as using a
computer as a:
target- spreading viruses
tool- using a computer to commit traditional
such as credit card fraud
accessory- to store illegal or stolen
Freedom of Speech
Hacktivism violates people’s first
amendment rights of Freedom of
– instead create you own website or blog
rather than editing the site of a
political group.
According to Kant: no ones rights
should be taken at the expense of
another’s because all of mankind is
Hidden Subculture
Hackers design this subculture and trust
system so they don’t get caught.
– keep a low profile
– don’t brag about what you are doing to people
outside of the network
– don’t narc on a fellow hacker if you are caught
– hackers know what they are doing is wrong
and they develop a system of “cultural norms”
to avoid prosecution.
what do YOU think?
 Hacking into government systems to point out
security flaws without harm to the system?
 Ethical?
 Not Ethical?
 Hacking into a home computer to point out
security flaws?
 Ethical?
 Not Ethical?
what do YOU think?
 A graduate student specializing in
computer security creates a website
similar to Northwest Airlines to
demonstrate that terrorists can make
fake boarding passes.
 Ethical?
 Not ethical?
what do YOU think?
 A data collecting company claims to keep
certain information private, such as SSN and
account numbers. A hacker discovers that the
company did not keep its promise. The private
information is actually published on the report.
The hacker makes his findings public in a news
 Ethical?
 Not ethical?
what do YOU think?
 Hacking into the website of a political
candidate and editing information
because you disagree with his position?
 Ethical?
 Not Ethical?