Internet Ethics: To Hack Or Not To Hack

In the wild wild west of the internet there are ethical questions that are yet to be explored…
Many internet users prefer to remain anonymous when dealing with others within the global community that the internet has become. This fact can make any type of “internet law” extremely difficult to enforce. Instead, the majority of internet users stick to the norm with appropriate social media accounts and polite behaviour, and making no waves at all. But what happens when someone breaks our internet etiquette and crosses the line? Is there no one to serve justice? Enter the “hacktivist”.
In the 1870s several teenagers were reprimanded for accessing the country’s brand new phone line, and enraged authorities prohibited them from ever committing such a crime again. Over a hundred years later we can look at this event and see that what really happened there was the world’s first hacking.
Hacking became synonymous with criminals in the years to follow. Using a tool (like a computer and internet connection) without permission to access files, or altering a program outside its original purpose, an individual becomes a hacker and therefore a so-called “bad guy”. In reality, however, this isn’t always the case.
Do not confuse hacktivists with white hat hackers. White hat hackers are usually employed by a company to attempt to hack into their own systems to seek out flaws in security. White hat hackers generally have permission from the network owners, therefore no longer qualify as a hacker in the criminal sense of the word.
Many hackers actually use their power for the good to either push a personal agenda (sometimes political) or just to maintain status quo within our internet communities. An anonymous hacker often becomes a voice for individuals who don’t have one, or aren’t technically equipped to tackle an issue online. For example, hackers often protect internet users from bullies or in some cases use the internet to defy fascist regimes in dictator ruled countries. The question remains, is hacktivism ethically sound?    
In the tale of Robin Hood he steals from the rich to give to the poor, which is great unless you happen to be rich. In the end we have to remember that the crafty Robin Hood was still stealing and technically infringing on the rights of the rich, even if they were technically the bad guys. Hacktivists can be seen in the same light: while they are accessing information without permission for good causes, they are still infringing on someone’s privacy and personal property.
Anonymous is a group of hackers which has organized itself to conduct well-publicized acts of internet hacking for reasons they determined to be for good. Anonymous members, called “Anons”, are infamous for distributed denial-of-service (DDos) attacks on government, religious and corporate organizations.
Trent Peacock wrote for Search Engine: The face of Anonymous in February of 2008:
“We [Anonymous] just happen to be a group of people on the internet who need — just kind of an outlet to do as we wish, that we wouldn’t be able to do in regular society… That’s more or less the point of it. Do as you wish… There’s a common phrase; ‘we are doing it for the lulz.’”
While Anonymous might perform stunts for good, many see them as an extremist group or at the very least in the gray area in between. The group has come to represent a vigilante sort of justice that targets child pornographers, corrupt businessmen of Wall Street and everyone in between.
The laws and regulations on what is and isn’t allowed on the web are slowly developing into rules that we all have to abide by, but until then there is still the freedom of any anonymous individual (Anon or not) to run amok through the unregulated space in the wires of the World Wide Web. Most moral decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis where the majority of our population are the “good guys” and the minority are the “bad guys”, but is it really ok for virtual vigilantes to take the internet “law” into their own hands? We may never know….  

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