Computing Ethics Research

Ethical Hacking?

I believe that there are situations in which hacking a system would be ethical. Adams and McCrindle (2008) describe grey-hat attacks as having the aim of “identifying potential vulnerabilities and inform the organization of their weaknesses”; they also state that the reason for seeing grey-hat attacks as unethical is due to unintended consequences that may follow the attacks. I do not think that grey-hat techniques are ethical because of the risks they involve and that it is unethical to attack a system that you do not know or are unable to rectify (due to your lack of knowledge for the inner system).

In scenarios such as the response by hackers to WikiLeaks, users are hacking organisations and sites that fail to support WikiLeaks. An article by Neal (2010) described how a 16 year old boy from the Netherlands was arrested for his part in the “Operation Payback” DDoS attack on MasterCard and Visa. I also disagree with these tactics as no good is coming from it.

A scenario in which I would be pro-hacking is where the system in question is either involved in illegal activities or is involved in inciting illegal activities. Of course the hacking of this system would come after the correct measures of due diligence had been adhered to; such as reporting the system to their host, or to the authorities. An article by Brandt (2004) described how the NSA (National Security Agency – America) appeared at the “Defcon 12 hackers’ conference” to seek out highly skilled “hackers” to work for their organisation. Conspiracy theories aside, this scenario would be another ethical realm of hacking, to investigate illegal activities to help fight crime; anything from tracking down distributors of child pornography over the internet, to those who publish credit card details to the public.


Adams, A & McCrindle, J (2008) Pandora’s Box: Social and professional issues of the information age. England: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Brandt, A (2010) Feds Seek a Few Good Hackers [Online] PC World. Available from: (Accessed: 12 December 2010).

Neal, D (2010) Dutch teen arrested over WikiLeaks revenge hacks [Online] V3. Available from: (Accessed: 12 December 2010).


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