Hacking and Ethics

Essay by John_ElmsHigh School, 11th gradeA+, May 2004

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Hacking should not be considered a crime, but rather, a pursuit of knowledge. Computers and microprocessors have given rise to new types of crime. Computer hacking is, seemingly, one of these crimes. People hack for various reasons, but to say they all intend to steal or purposefully cause disruption would be unjust.

A hacker is an individual who enjoys the intellectual challenge of creatively overcoming limitations, namely in the fields of programming and/or electrical engineering. A common misconception is that anyone considered a hacker is undertaking in an illegal practice. It is a dissapointing observation on the standing of societies where when someone who is primarily seeking knowledge and truth is assumed to be engaging in a criminal act. Nothing could be further from the truth.

This essay will examine the social and ethical implications of hacking, discuss underlying issues, and, make an argument and critical judgement of the positive and negative aspects of hacking.

The media uses the term 'hacker' to describe computer criminals whose motivations are sinister. However, in reality, hackers hack to gain knowledge about computers and security. They enjoy exploring the details and stretching the capabilities of programmable systems, unlike most users, who prefer to learn only the minimum necessary to operate them. Emmanuel Goldstein (Q&A with Emmanuel Goldstein of 2600: The Hacker's Quarterly) describes hacking as "asking a lot of questions and refusing to stop asking."

Dictionary.com defines a hacker as -

1. One who is proficient at using or programming a computer; a computer buff.

2. One who uses programming skills to gain illegal access to a computer network or file.

Both these explanations are valid in describing the true nature of a hacker. However, gaining illegal access to a computer network or file does not necessarily imply that hackers will purposefully damage or...