There is a New York Times article, called “Malwebolence” that is one of my favorites about new technology and Internet culture. If you have any interest in these issues I suggest you read it.
And it got me thinking about hackers, hacking and how they might do more good in the world.
For example, on the Wikipedia page of one prominent hacker, “Weev”, it says that he and a group of hackers he belongs to (called either ‘the organisation” or “goatse security” depending on who he’s trolling) have exposed a flaw in AT&T’s security that could have compromised their users’ personal information. And I’m sure we all remember when Sarah Palin’s email was hacked, with embarassing, but positive, consequences
So my question is: why don’t hackers do more good in the world?
Well, maybe they can’t. It is possible that our image of hackers as people who can do anything they want is simply false. There are several industries that are dedicted to making electronic communication safe, and while they can never completely win I find it highly unlikely that they would ever completely lose either.
I mean the AT&T thing was accomplished because those involved are experts in security issues, and thuse they are well positioned to discover flaws (and, in all probability, exploit them). And somehow I doubt that Sarah Palin is sufficiently tech-savvy to give herself a hard password, so hacking her account probably wasn’t that difficult either.
So hacks like that fell well within their own expertise, and it is possible that hackers are just unable to gain access to the kind of information that could do real good in the world. You know, bring down the stocks of evil corporations (after shorting those same stocks of course), expose politicians who are on the take (after making bets on the election results), all that good stuff.
It is also possible that they are either unwilling to do any good with their skillz (the “I don’t give a shit” factor) or that they are afraid of doing so lest they anger those with the power to shut them down (the “don’t tase me bro” factor).
The fact that Weev was apparently recently arrested for multiple drug possession may lend some credence to this theory.
The final possibility, and the one I like the best, is that they are doing some good, but we just don’t know it.
Witness Wikileaks, and all the amazing things they’ve managed to do by putting vital information out on the ‘Net. I’m sure that most of their content comes from concerned insiders, but I like to believe that some of it must come from hackers, who stumble across something important, and feel it needs to be shared.
I suppose shall never know. Unless of course some friendly h4x0r comments about it.
[Standard Disclaimer: this post was entirely my own opinion and was not paid for in any way, directly or otherwise, by anyone or anything that stands to gain in any way from the ideas expressed herein.]