It was one of those classes that would induce sleep so eventually I decided to stay in bed and not make the journey to my 8:00am ethics class in college. I wish now that I had persevered as it might have informed my reasoning through situations such as this one. In the field of cybersecurity there are hackers whose job it is to penetrate the security systems that are put in place to keep data safe. Now breaking in to someone elses house is wrong, I think we could all agree with that and if I tought you how to break into houses that would generally be considered a bad thing and one which might land me in jail. When it comes to cyber security we seem to pass through the looking-glass and things get very strange. In this looking-glass land there is a practice called ethical hacking, that is, a computer security expert will set about finding the kinks in your cybersecurity armor and tell you how to fix them. As cyber security becomes more important this skill has found its way into college courses basically teaching breaking and entering to prevent breaking and entering. This teaching evil for good is a breach of ethical behavior says Gail Finley , former faculty member at Hampton University who in a 2009, wrote an article titled, “Just Say No to Teaching Ethical Hacking”. An Ethical or White Hat hacker is someone who is hacking for constructive purposes helping you to be secure as opposed to a Black Hat hacker who is someone who is hacking for non ethical purposes, to hold data for hostage, (as happened to Dominos pizza in Europe) to cause or augment social disturbance or personal gain.
While pondering this war of black and white I was reminded of a college class that I did stay awake for, Venetian History. Venice, being a prosperous city in the renaissance had a great interest in free and open waters. When the Slavic and Saracen pirates started looting and sinking ships full of cargo coming and going from the port, the Doge decided to be proactive and do something. He decided to get the pirates before they got him – fighting piracy with “anti piracy” – seizing ships that you might suspect of piracy and take hold of their “ill-gotten spoil” before they could attack you. The question became what was piracy and what was anti piracy. Was it ethical to attack someone who may or may not be a threat to remove their possible actions? Were they not, like Polonius, being cruel if only to be kind but do we leave the worse behind. Are we teaching evil tactics to good ends? I am afraid the Venetians left us no answer but I am glad to see that some are still looking for an answer. Like white hat hackers, there is virtue in the search even if the truth we find may not set us free.