Hackers have showed time in and time out their proven capabilities to accessing and uncovering unauthorised data. Some do this autonomously whilst others operate in networks. One of the more well-known, sophisticated hacking networks is Anonymous, a collective who consider themselves “the final boss of the Internet”. They are the digital resistance who disguise their identity with vendetta masks and have the power to broadcast messages, shutdown websites and leak details (Mitew 2014).
(Source: Thompson 2011, Guy Fawkes mask inspires Occupy protests around the world, accessed: 9/10/2014, http://edition.cnn.com/2011/11/04/world/europe/guy-fawkes-mask/)
Whilst some describe them as gray hat hacktivists, black hat hackers or even refer to them as a hacker ‘terrorist’ group, Anonymous have actually put their skills to good use to uncover vital information for the greater good of society. In 2011, Anonymous leaked emails as a way to expose corrupt practices occurring within the Bank of America and in the same year begun Operation DarkNet, which saw the group take down child pornography run by Tor software. Although in doing so, they did violate computer security by carrying out key hacker ethics (Mitew 2014) of sharing, no secrets, information freedom and no authority, would you consider these malicious attacks or hacktivism?
Malicious attacks or not, the term ‘hacker’ doesn’t have to insinuate illicit behaviour. There are hackers who operate purely to secure networks and databases of businesses and governments (Boyd 2014). These types of hackers are called white hat hackers, as they typically possess ethical traits and motives. Wenzl (2014) explains there’s a demand for these types of hackers as business and corporate increasingly go digital. However, Boulton (2014) reveals that there’s a lack of white hat’s with “cybersecurity talent that can apply the appropriate defence techniques without hampering the business’s ability to operate”. Just last year, an influential popular white hat hacker, Barnaby Jack past away. He’s remembered for his demonstration at the Black Hat awards in 2010 where he used a laptop to make money spurt out of an ATM. Whilst white hat hackers can be expensive for a business, they are nonetheless crucial to protect company and customer data (Boulton 2014).
(Source: ExamCollection 2013, Certified Ethical Hackers, or Welcome to the Light Side, accessed: 9/10/2014, http://www.examcollection.com/blog/tag/white-hat-hackers/)
Of course, white hat’s have a duty to warn about security vulnerabilities and engage in vigorous testing to solve system faults before black hat hackers uncover them, but what about white hat employees who may be protecting business flaws or secrets? Just how ethical are they? Are they still white hat’s and Anonymous really black hat’s, even though Anonymous were the hacktivist’s responsible for providing truth and bringing attention to those who’ve done wrong?
Learn about more hacktivist displays from Anonymous here.
Mitew, T 2014, Digital resistance: hacktivists, whistleblowers, #AfterSnowden, lecture, DIGC202, Global Networks, University of Wollongong, delivered 7 October.