The “Information Superhighway” possesses common traits with a regularhighway. People travel on it daily and attempt to get to a predetermineddestination. There are evil criminals who want to violate citizens in any waypossible. A reckless driver who runs another off the road is like a good hacker.
Hacking is the way to torment people on the Internet. Most of the mainstreamhacking community feel that it is their right to confuse others for theirentertainment. Simply stated, hacking is the intrusion into a computer forpersonal benefit. The motives do not have to be focused on profit because manydo it out of curiosity. Hackers seek to fulfill an emptiness left by aninadequate education. Do hackers have the right to explore wherever he or shewants on the Internet (with or without permission), or is it the right of thegeneral population to be safe from their trespasses?To tackle this question, people have to know what a hacker is. Theconnotation of the word ‘hacker’ is a person that does mischief to computersystems, like computer viruses and cybercrimes. “There is no single widely-useddefinition of computer-related crime, so computer network users and lawenforcement officials must distinguish between illegal or deliberate networkabuse versus behavior that is merely annoying. Legal systems everywhere arebusily studying ways of dealing with crimes and criminals on the Internet”(Voss, 1996, p. 2).
There are ultimately three different views on the hacker controversy. Thefirst is that hacking or any intrusion on a computer is just like trespassing.
Any electric medium should be treated just like it were tangible, and all lawsshould be followed as such. On the other extreme are the people that seehacking as a privilege that falls under the right of free speech. The limits ofthe law should be pushed to their farthest extent. They believe that hacking isa right that belongs to the individual. The third group is the people that arein the middle of the two groups. These people feel that stealing information isa crime, and that privacy is something that hackers should not invade. They arenot as right wing as the people that feel that hackers should be eliminated.
Hackers have their own ideals to how the Internet should operate. Thefewer laws there are to impede a hacker’s right to say and do what they want,the better they feel. Most people that do hack follow a certain profile. Mostof them are disappointed with school, feeling “I’m smarter than most of theother kids, this crap they teach us bores me” (Mentor, 1986, p. 70). Computersare these hackers only refuge, and the Internet gives them a way to expressthemselves. The hacker environment hinges on people’s first amendment right tofreedom of speech. Some justify their actions of hacking by saying that thehacking that they do is legitimate.
Some hackers that feel their pastime is legitimate and only do it forthe information; others do it for the challenge. Still other hackers feel it istheir right to correct offenses done to people by large corporations or thegovernment. Hackers have brought it to the public’s attention that thegovernment has information on people, without the consent of the individual.
Was it a crime of the hacker to show that the government was intruding on theprivacy of the public? The government hit panic stage when reports stated thatover 65% of the government’s computers could be hacked into 95% of the time(Anthes, 1996, p. 21). Other hackers find dubious business practices that largecorporations try to accomplish. People find this information helpful anddisturbing. However, the public may not feel that the benefits out weigh theproblems that hackers can cause. When companies find intruders in theircomputer system, they strengthen their security, which costs money. Reportsindicate that hackers cost companies a total of $150 to $300 billion a year(Steffora & Cheek, 1994, p. 43). Security system implementation is necessary toprevent losses. The money that companies invest on security goes into the costof the products that they sell. This, in turn, raises the prices of theproducts, which is not popular to the public.
The government feels that it should step in and make the choices when itcomes to the control of cyberspace. However, the government has a tremendousamount of trouble with handling the laws dealing with hacking. What most of thelaw enforcement agencies follow is the “Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986.””Violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act include intrusions intogovernment, financial, most medical, and Federal interest computers. Federalinterest computers are defined by law as two or more computers involved in thecriminal offense, which are located in different states. Therefore, acommercial computer which is the victim of an intrusion coming from anotherstate is a “Federal interest” computer” (Federal, 1996, p. 1). Most of the time,the laws have to be extremely specific, and hackers find loopholes in these laws,ultimately getting around them. Another problem with the laws is the peoplethat make the laws. Legislators have to be familiar with high-tech materialsthat these hackers are using, but most of them know very little about computersystems. The current law system is unfair; it tramples over the rights of theindividual, and is not productive, as illustrated in the following case. DavidLaMacchia used his computers as “distribution centers for illegally copiedsoftware. In this case, the law was not prepared to handle whatever crimes mayhave been committed. The judge ruled that there was no conspiracy and dismissedthe case. If statutes were in place to address the liability taken on by a BBSoperator for the materials contained on the system, situations like this mightbe handled very differently” (Voss, 1996, p. 2). The government is not ready tohandle the continually expanding reaches of the Internet.
If the government cannot handle the hackers, then who should judge thelimits of hacking? This decision has to be in the placed in the hands of thepublic, but in all probability, the stopping of hackers will never happen. Thehacker’s mentality stems from boredom and a need for adventure, and any laws orpublic beliefs that try to suppress that cannot. Every institution that theyhave encountered has oppressed them, and hacking is the hacker’s only means forrelease, the government or public cannot take that away from them. That is notnecessarily a bad thing. Hacking can bring some good results; especiallybringing oppressing bodies (like the government and large corporations) to theirknees by releasing information that shows how suppressive they have been.
However, people that hack to annoy or to destroy are not valid in theirreasoning. Nothing is accomplished by mindless destruction, and other thanbeing a phallic display, it serves no purpose. Laws and regulations shouldlimit these peo ple’s capabilities to cause havoc. Hacking is something thatwill continue to be a debate in and out of the computer field, but maybe somedaythe public will accept hackers. On the converse, maybe the extreme hackers willcalm down and follow the accepted behaviors.
ReferencesAnthes, G. H. (1996, September 16). Few Gains Made Against Hackers.
Computerworld, 30(38). 21. Federal Bureau of Investigation. (1997, February).
Federal Bureau of Investigation National Computer Crime Squad. Internet.
Available: World Wide Web, http://www.fbi.gov/ programs/nccs/compcrim.htmMentor, The. (1986). Hacker’s Manifesto, or The Conscience of a Hacker.
In Victor J. Vitanza (Ed.), CyberReader (pp. 70-71). Boston: Allyn andBacon. Steffora, A. & Martin Cheek. (1994, February 07).
Hacking Goes Legit. Industry Week, 243(3). 43-44, 46.
Voss, Natalie D. (1996, December). Crime on the Internet. JonesTelecommunication and Multimedia Encyclopedia. Internet. Available: WorldWide Web, http://www.digitalcentury.com/encyclo/update/crime.htmlCategory: Technology