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Cruel if only to be kind?

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.

 

pirateskull

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All I need is everything

I have been reading a lot about cybersecurity lately. That is the idea that the information that we share with others kept securely and that we can work under the reasonable assumption that the information we share with a business will stay with that business. Now, we know that companies have the right to sell our information and to share it without our permission but is the inverse true? Could companies withhold information from us for our real or perceived “own good”? We know the government keeps information under the guise of National Security but what is there that is too powerful for us to know? And then what about the question as to who owns information could someone say, “E=mc2” is mine and you can’t think with it? As the internet give us more access to information, is it giving us access to new information or more access to what we already know? If the truth will set us free what happens when that truth is owned and available only those who can afford it?

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For those of you who find the tile referential, hear the song here, yeah, it took me back too (Thanks Fletch)

Another interesting thought on the matter; while I don’t totally agree with their methods, I see their point.

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