Hacking: a dangerous act only performed by anarchist web pirates intent on causing online terrorism and stealing everyone’s information or is it purely in pursuit of knowledge and truth, attempting to expose corruption and keeping governments and corporations honest? Most would agree there are many on both sides of the spectrum and with the online world lacking define borders and legal lines for which to be drawn, clear distinctions of legality are difficult to define.
To me, hacking could be looked at in the same vein as so many other acts with a potential danger, but also with some distinctions. Driving in our cars, everyday or enjoying a drink on the weekend for example involves generally accepted ethical codes of conduct. We know not to drive erratically or too fast as to reduce any risk of harming others. Most of us drink sensibly, not pick fights and well, choose not to drive when drunk. We hope and assume that society respects the ethics involved in daily activities and that is how we avoid turning into a nanny state with rules and regulations without trust of the individuals.
Hacking had much of its origins in many using hacking exploits to simply prove they could and for bragging rights to other hackers. To bring down a large company was making a name for yourself and to have capabilities that surpassed those in charge of large corporations and their operating systems was a skill that was worth flaunting. More than anything, it was and still is based on the individual vs. the institution.
Graffiti emerged in Hip Hop culture as an individual’s response to the institution. Much the same as hacking, graffiti uses an anonymous title to illegally access, alter and leave your mark on something not belonging to them. Many taggers and writers could be considered artists the same way many hackers could be seen as computer geniuses. Perhaps there are many that view hacking as an art form? An act of rebellion against a larger entity, bringing them down a few notches makes a bold statement to the public and to the entity itself. For more thoughts on graffiti and hacking see here.
Hacktivism as a more specific form of hacking concerned with hacking in order to promote political ends such as human rights and freedom of speech. Today, many stick by what is considered to be the basis of hacktivsm which a strong code of ethics, much like the code according to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange; Don’t damage computers you break into, don’t change the information in the systems and share the information. Obviously if everyone adhered to this, we wouldn’t have a lot of the identity theft, money stolen from accounts or shutdowns of publicly used networks.
Ultimately hacking, in the wrong hands, is a potentially dangerous activity that could see your identity stolen, credit card details revealed and military secrets exposed. Striving for truth should be something we all try to do and perhaps the most admirable quality of a true hacktivist. It is promising in a world where corruption and greed runs rife in our governments and corporations. In the words of Abraham Lincoln, “Let the people know the facts and the country will be safe.” Unfortunately with so many underlying issues that this statement opens up, how much truth is revealed and the content will always be contested by individuals and the institutions for some time to come…