Opinion: Hacking Community: Vigilantes or Heroes?

Category: Opinion / Jun 20, 2011 5:51PM EDT
As the bragging rights battle between hacker factions escalates it appears that the sophomoric game of one-upmanship has further blurred the understanding between right and wrong among those who see hacking, regardless of hacker designation or distinction as a victimless crime. You see there are essentially 3 distinctions of hackers loosely arranged into categories depending on their intent. The first are called White Hat Hackers…those who hack on behalf or in cooperation with companies and organizations to expose technical vulnerabilities and are in most… if not all cases authorized to do so by the owners of the site being targeted . On the other extreme, there are Black hat hackers whose intent is to destroy or steal information for political or commercial benefit. Then in the middle are unauthorized hackers whose goal is a little less defined but generally speaking, aim to expose online vulnerabilities to shame their targets into improving security or alter public statements that the Grey Hats find objectionable. It is the Grey hat hackers that are a major concern…white hat hackers have authorization and conduct their activities in a controlled environment and black hat hackers are bad guys and they can be identified as such by their actions. The Grey Hats are the modern-day equivilents to vigilante mobs in reverse…or in some cases the modern version of David and Goliath. It’s not a bunch of crazies chasing around one guy to impose justice it’s a few guys or one guy going after huge multinational corporations…and winning! These self-proclaimed deputies of internet justice don’t seem to fully understand or care about the damage they inflict on their targets beyond the childish amusement gained or the hard-working people at these companies who depend upon their jobs to sustain themselves and their families. If this group is successful and intent on destroying the Sony company for example…as they say, it would result in a massive amount of good, decent working-class people losing their jobs. There is nothing funny or entertaining about that and there is nothing noble or robin-hood-esque about the way it is done in secret like some ultra-intelligent nocturnal rodent skulking around in the night. The perpetrators of these crimes don’t have to see the hardship their actions cause so it is easy for them to distance themselves from responsibility or conscience. It’s the same with cyber-bullying…any coward can do it. I will give these guys their do…they are very technically savvy, they know how to deliver their weapon of choice and they are very adept at organization. In military terms they have the key elements of a highly successful combat squad. At the moment it appears that they have the world’s most powerful intelligence agency, the CIA looking like a dog chasing its tail. The last thing I want to do is pick a fight with these guys, they seem to be endowed with more intelligence than I will ever have about this stuff and plently of time on their hands. But I would suggest for them to try to think through their actions…we all know you can do this stuff…and I will also admit that the benign intervention may in fact help companies become more secure in some cases…but not at the expense of the working class.