Hacking, ethics and the end of right and wrong

Written by on December 2, 2015 in Opinion with 0 Comments

HackingHacking used to be a bad thing. Now, though, it is so much part of our lives that the ethics of hacking are becoming complex. From reasonably harmless spam from apparently real sources, to ‘ethical’ hacking, to full-scale cyber warfare, we accept that we live in a world where we can be compromised online.

This is an emerging debate and goes right to the heart of the privacy vs security issue. But now, with a complexity of ethics.

The latest blurring of the ethics of hacking comes from Paris. It took place at the great climate debate, at which Obama arrived with a small and climate friendly entourage of 500 people, a large plane, a few cars, chefs, doctors, spin doctors and other essentials for a quick trip abroad. ‘Ethical’ hackers took over the screen adverts on bus shelters and displayed a range of images that showed David Cameron as Lewis Hamilton, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe with a coal-fired power station growing out of his head and a polar bear depicted as an iceberg, drowning in the rising sea water.

This is clearly hacking, and clearly a crime. But is it different than a crowd standing in front of the conference venue waving banners at the small American army as it streams past? They would say it is freedom of speech.

There is a new front to the war against Islamic State. They have tech help desks on platforms such as Telegram and others. As fast as the ‘good guys’ close them down, they pop up somewhere else. ‘Ethical’ hacking group Anonymous managed to divert some of the ‘how do I blow people up’ enquiries to a Rick Astley song. Clearly hacking, but is this war? And if so, war suddenly got a sense of humour.

The infamous Ashley Madison hack earlier in the year is another example of the blurring. The hackers hacked Ashley Madison because they did not approve of a site that enabled people to have illicit affairs. You can see their point, but illicit affairs are not illegal, hacking a site that sets them up is illegal.

The hacking war going on in Hong Kong is a struggle between the State and protesters. Presumably China would say that their actions are legal and those of the protesters illegal. But hacking is illegal, so both are breaking the law.

This is not meant to be a deep and philosophical piece, rather an example of the new way of our world. A world, it seems, where right and wrong, friend and foe, partner or competitor is in flux.

One where everything depends on context. And that makes a lot of things very complicated.

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About the Author

About the Author: Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet. He is publisher of DisruptiveViews and previously BillingViews. .

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