Computers, Information Technology, the Internet, Ethics, Society and
Philip Pecorino, Ph.D.
Queensborough Community College, CUNY
Chapter 8 Crime and Misbehavior
HowToGAMIT Guide (How to Get
Around MIT) is the ultimate MIT handbook. This excerpt from HowToGAMIT
sets forth the hackers’ code as it stands in the early twenty-first
1. Be safe. Your
safety, the safety of your fellow hackers, and the safety of anyone you
hack should never be compromised.
2. Be subtle. Leave
no evidence that you were ever there.
3. Leave things as
you found them (or better).
4. If you find
something broken call F-IXIT (the local number for reporting problems
with the buildings and grounds). Hackers often go places that Institute
workers do not frequent regularly and may see problems before anyone
5. Leave no damage.
6. Do not steal
7. Brute force is the
last resort of the incompetent. (“One who breaks a thing to find out
what it is has left the path of reason.”—Keshlam the Seer, Knight of the
8. Do not hack while
under the influence of alcohol/drugs/etc.
9. Do not drop things
(off a building) without a ground crew.
10. Do not hack alone
(just like swimming).
11. Above all,
exercise common sense.
These rules are found
Are these rules enough
to provide for the conclusion that hacking is morally acceptable or
correct? What are the ethics of hacking? Here is an
excerpt from Hackers: Heroes of the
Computer Revolution (1984) by Steven Levy with another set of basic
principles claimed to be held by hackers.
He suggests that there is a "code of ethics"
for hacking which, though not pasted on the walls, is in the air:
Access to computers
-- and anything which might teach you something about the way the world
works -- should be unlimited and total. Always yield to the Hands-On
should be free.
Hackers should be
judged by their hacking, not bogus criteria such as degrees, age, race,
You can create art
and beauty on a computer.
Computers can change
your life for the better. -- Levy, Steven. 1984. Hackers: Heroes
of the Computer Revolution, Anchor Press/Doubleday, Garden City, NY, 458
Concerning Hacking there are a
number of presentations on what it is, its history and whether or not is
is morally acceptable. Here are some significant presentations of
Hacker Cultures: Origins
Hacker Heroes of the Computer Revolution wikipedia
Computer Hacker Ethics by Dorothy E. Denning
Computer Hacking and Ethics
Harvey University of California, Berkeley.
"The Hacker Crackdown: Law and Disorder on the Electronic Frontier,"
by Bruce Sterling
Concerning Hackers Who Break into Computer Systems by Dorothy E.
Governor Calls for 'Cyber Court'",
by Declan McCullagh, Oct. 18, 2001, from
Pledges Support at Anti-Hacking Summit", by John Schwartz and Ariana
Eunjung Cha, Washington Post Staff Writers, Wednesday, February 16, 2000
hackers kill credit cards? Spate of e-commerce intrusions might mean
a new form of payment system will come sooner than expected", by Bob
Sullivan, MSNBC, March 15, 2000.
- "Kevin Mitnick walks down a hall
on Capitol Hill on Thursday.
hacker advises Senate panel; Mitnick warns technical safeguards not
enough to protect secrets", ASSOCIATED PRESS, 2000/03/02.
Offers Legislative Package to Combat Online Hacking",
Charles E. Schumer, US Senate, NY, 2000/02/29.
"Investigators assure Congress of progress on hacking incidents:
Expanded computer crime laws eyed", ASSOCIATED PRESS, 2000/02/29.
the Denial of Service (DOS) attacks
on web sites, 2000/02/14.
"Distributed Denial of Service Attacks", Friday,
February 11, 2000 at 16:17:17, by Carolyn Meinel - AntiOnline
raid teen hacker's home", aftenposten,
Norway, 25 January 2000.
Kevin Mitnick", Forbes.com, undated on or about 2000/01/18.
Now the basic ethical
question is under what notion of hacking and under what circumstances
would it ever be morally correct or incorrect conduct? Any position taken on this
would need to be defended with a moral argument. That argument would
in turn involve ethical principles that offer us notions of what makes any
action a morally good act.
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