Hacking for the greater good

In an era when technology is rapidly advancing and becoming more prominent, computers, cell phones, and tablets play a significant role in people’s daily lives and routines.  Technology has become normalized in today’s society, and is often used to store and communicate private information.  As the use of technology increases, however, cybercrime simultaneously increases with it.

Cybercrime is one of the fastest-growing areas of crime due to how easily hackers can use technology to exploit others. Though hackers are often perceived negatively for committing security breaches, not every hacker infiltrates computers with the intention of causing harm.  There have been numerous incidents where information obtained by hackers has benefitted the general public, specific groups, and individuals.

WikiLeaks is an organization that anonymously leaks secret information about war, spying, and corruption through its website.  The organization has published over 10 million documents since its founding in 2006.  Some of the website’s biggest stories have been the 9/11 pager data and the Iraq War Logs.

Over half a million U.S. national text pager data was released by WikiLeaks on September 11, 2011. In the archive were messages from U.S. officials, Pentagon Workers, New York Police, and the general public.  Not much was said by WikiLeaks regarding the released pager data, but the organizations "hope[s] that its entry into the historical record will lead to a more nuanced understanding of how this tragedy and its aftermath may have been prevented."

In 2010, WikiLeaks released the Iraq War Logs, consisting of almost 400,000 reports about the war and occupation in Iraq from 2005 to 2009.  Records revealed that 66,000 civilians were among the 109,000 deaths recorded.  Failure by the U.S. to admit 15,000 deaths and investigate hundreds of rape, abuse, torutre, and murder allegations was exposed with the Iraq War Logs leak.

Besides WikiLeaks, a group known as Anonymous has been behind several other private document leaks about government and establishment hypocrisy. They spread social activism by utilizing the Internet, proclaiming themselves as “activists.”  While the government classifies Anonymous as criminals, supporters of the group believe that they are providing them with rights and freedom.  Despite the many controversial articles posted on their website, hackers for Anonymous have used their skills to act for the greater good.

Operation DarkNet was launched in 2011 by Anonymous against child pornography.  They targeted the website Lolilta City, which was run on a software called Tor, allowing for users to maintain anonymity. Anonymous was able to take down Lolita City and 40 other sites or groups by infiltrating Tor.  In addition to that, they published details about the users of the websites.

Anonymous then began Operation Free Korea in 2013 to encourage North Korean citizens to stand up against their government, and force leader Kim Jong-un to install free democracy in the country.  They managed to hijack Uriminzokkiri, North Korea’s state-controlled social networking website, used by the government to post propaganda.  Anonymous was able to hack into 15,000 accounts and post messages such as, “To the citizens of North Korea we suggest to rise up and bring [this] oppressive government down!”

Ethics are called into play when hackers are conducting illegal online activity to purposely target others.  There are many hackers who use their knowledge in technology to commit unjust crimes such as credit card theft or planting viruses; however, the useful information released by WikiLeaks and the actions taken by Anonymous prove that not all hackers are evil.  Because such a broad range of hackers exist, the line between hacking for the ultimate benefit of helping others and hacking to cause harm is often blurred.  

“Even though stopping all hackers would lead to a major decrease in cybercrime, hackers should exist in our society because they serve to provide us information that ordinary people cannot easily obtain,” sophomore Rita Ventura said.

Although society must face the negative crimes committed by hackers, the positive actions made by hackers counteract the negative ones.

Posted on April 27, 2016 .