Black, grey white hats – hacking of course!
White Hat hackers are ethical hackers, they simply use hacking techniques to test software and security systems. The Grey Hat hacker is not malicious, but occasionally violates ethical principles and laws. Black Hats are the bad guys, they are nefarious, according to law enforcement agencies and commercial interests, they infiltrate systems, wipe, steal and disrupt. Or do they?
As often happens with any fear of wrong doing or alleged crime, truth is often the first casualty. Black Hats are simply lumped in together. So consider Gary McKinnon, formerly known as Solo, who hacked ino 97 US military and NASA systems between 2001 and 2002, altering and removing data. Mckinnon claimed he was looking for information about UFOs, extraterrestials, and chemical suppression processes. Extradition to the US from Britain was attempted but in the end refused. McKinnon remained free, and in the ensuing investigations, it transpired that the sensational claims made against him were inaccurate. But then we had Kevin Poulson who committed fraud and theft using hacking skills, he was caught and sent to prison, but now works at The Daily Beast and has been an editor at Wired.
So, two different motives appear, one to find information that is being hidden from the public, the other to do the equivalent of the old bank robbery. Both are considered to be crimes, however, in my mind, McKinnon was not seeking gain, whereas Poulson’s sought financial gain through theft. I have some sympathy for Mckinnon, and none for Poulson.
Anonymous is a loose collective of what are referred to as hacktivists, they are amorphous and ever changing, and they have specialised in cyber attack, especially in matters of justice and claims to avenge corruption and injustice. It is typified by the headless man symbol – meaning there is no central leader or leadership, and in public the use of the Zorro mask is now synonymous. Many have referred to the group as a cyber Robin Hood. Their main purpose has been to temporarily shut down websites and services as a form of protest. anonymous has exposed pedophile groups, sweat shops, cheating spouses, racial profiling, racist political groups, corrupt politicians and more. They led cyber attacks on Scientology, Westboro Baptist Church, and commercial interests who have been show to behave unjustly. They have been supporters of Wikileaks, Occupy and Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden.
Wikileaks is a group that operates a website and who post hacked or leaked material, mainly suppressed material from around the globe, it has also set up a research wing looking at the material it posts. It was founded by Julian Assange, who has been the subject of an extradition battle by the US. Although it has had a controversial history thus far, and some alleged nefarious dealings with Russian interests, Wikileaks has also exposed commercial and government lies, duplicity, and deception around the globe. Wikileaks has exposed nuclear dsiasters, environmental abuses,government corruption, military attacks on civilians, plots and threats, and police corruption. Basically taking up the role of an independent watchdog.
These groups are indeed nefarious, but the one’s I really don’t like are those that are just common thieves. The rest, while motives are mixed, and methods questionable, at least they have sought a way to make governments and commercial interests accountable. in my view it is laughable when western government agencies protest about the crimes of hacktivists and in particular the shady methods they use, I see that as the kettle calling the pot black. So it all depends on where you are standing as to how you might see this issue, but I for one see a glimmer of good in the work of Anonymous and Wikileaks. Governments become arrogant, and as has been shown by hacktivists, they lie to the people, even to themselves, and that means power has been corrupted.
The US and its allies speak of hacktivists as terrorists. I beg to differ, it’s a little childish to exaggerate the issue. Besides, in my view these people have done exactly what Mark Felt, Daniel Elsberg and others before them have done, but in a global and accessible way using the internet. In that sense, hacktivists are whistleblowing. We may not like their methods or their attitude, but just look at some of the results.
For me, the work of the hacktivists is more about getting to the truth and preserving freedom of speech. While truth is relative, freedom of speech is sacrosanct and should be defended no matter what. How did keeping the Iran nuclear leak in 2009 suppressed protect national security? It didn’t. Freedom of speech is far more important than someone’s opinion that government should be protected at all costs.
Some related quotes I like:
“Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.” Harry Truman speaking to Congress August 8, 1950.
“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” George Orwell
Speak your truth!