Saturday, 16 July 2011

The Ethics of Hacking

In light of recent news coming from England, my home country, it seems fitting to address the issue of hacking.

I work primarily in technology, reporting news for techies and exploring the future of the digital age. As such, I’m often writing glowing reports on the wonders of Internet vigilantism and ethical hackers.

The news from England that some less admirable hacking has allegedly (I say “allegedly,” but in reality it would take a miracle for the hackers to be found innocent) taken place in order to find new stories for the infamous British tabloids.

Stories such as former Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s "Baby Has Cystic Fibrosis" required hacking of medical records and phones. The question that barely needs to be asked is “Is this story worth breaking the law for?”

Stories I’m reporting on though, relate more to hacks from groups like LulzSec, the loveable rogues who went hack-crazy for 50 days, seemingly attacking every and any authoritative organisation in sight. It seems that hacking while waving a flag (or a sail, in LulzSec’s case) and with your tongue firmly in your cheek, is wholly acceptable.

While I tend to agree, actually, with favouring of the likes of LulzSec and co. in their quest to do as they please while making Joe Public smile, I can’t help but feel disappointed in the media’s relentless bias. I agree on a personal level, not a professional one.

My problem is this, if the media report on a story, it’s seen as fact by some people. I understand that some people are just… well… stupid, but they’re important nonetheless. I think the believing public make up a larger portion of the world than most would care to believe. If the BBC report a semi-playful “CIA Website Shut Down” story, the reader is indoctrinated with the belief that this is acceptable.

While it’s not my place to challenge these beliefs, it is my place to challenge the negligence of the
piece, especially when compared to the relative outrage they assigned to hackers’ action when the News of the World (a British newspaper, which has closed as a result of the hacking allegations) was bought into the spotlight.

Either the media’s outrage at the tabloid press' alleged actions is opinion over fact, or their love affair with LulzSec was. Neither is acceptable from the likes of the BBC.


  1. Honestly, it's getting a bit ridiculous lately. People are actually dying now, and people seem to be doing it mostly for laughs.

  2. Interesting and important post. I've personally pretty much given up on traditional media since I realized that almost noone has science journalists left, but almost everyone publish horoscopes.

  3. I know i might be alone on this one, but i think that for most cases, hacking is fair play. If there is something too personal or regarding an illnes or stuff like that, its not cool. But for trivial things is A OK in my book.

  4. Yeah between the media being the way it is and certain people being as you said "stupid" it's a ^%$^ up world.

  5. I bet they never thought that hacking a few individual's phones could lead to someones death and a loss of many jobs.

  6. I think an important distinction to be made is the people behind the hacking and the purpose of the hacking. Lulzsec have (as far as we know) not been hacking for personal gain and neither have they (as far as we know) abused any personal information they may have, or caused harm to individuals. NOTW was a cold hearted hacking of individuals very private data with a view to publishing it for personal gain, and in the worst case hampering an important police inquiry. Whilst they are both hacking I can understand why the BBC showed more outrage at the latter than the former.

  7. Ethics, very hard to make a universal set. To much is subjective, making almost everything a shade of grey.

  8. Great post mate, the media is becoming very invasive in private lives in order to try get the best selling story, i've lost faith in modern newspapers and journalism!

  9. blind civil obedience turns people in to sheep though. just sayin