The Positive Side of Hacking

// Posted by on 02/28/2012 (7:50 PM)

Given the tremendous amount of attention hacking has received in the last couple years, especially due to groups like Anonymous and the Stuxnet virus last year, hacking has come to inherit a pretty negative stigma. Just tonight, Interpol released a statement describing the arrest of some 25 individuals associated with the hacker group Anonymous, in a coordinated international operation across four countries in Latin America and Europe. The statement goes on to quote Bernd Rossbach, Acting Interpol Executive Director of Police Services: “This operation shows that crime in the virtual world does have real consequences for those involved, and that the Internet cannot be seen as a safe haven for criminal activity, no matter where it originates or where it is targeted.” The article seems to me to imply that all hacking is necessarily criminal, which is somewhat misleading.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are the good guys, who use their powers for good and not evil. People like Charlie Miller, winner of the 2011 Pwn2Own hacking competition held at the annual CanSecWest security conference (and I know, how dare I link to wikipedia… but it gets the job done with only 1 link).

At the competition, hackers are offered cash incentives to exploit various software and browsers on both computers and mobile phones. But why would companies willingly let people hack their products, let alone pay them to do so? Basically, because these companies are then provided with information about the vulnerability that was exploited, so that the company can then attempt to correct the problem and prevent as much harm as possible from malicious hackers.

In fact, since nobody has been able to successfully hack Chrome yet, Google is offering an additional $1 million in “hacker bounties,” on top of the money already offered at the 2012 CanSecWest conference next week. Google wrote on its blog, “We require each set of exploit bugs to be reliable, fully functional end to end, disjoint, of critical impact, present in the latest versions and genuinely ’0-day,’ i.e. not known to us or previously shared with third parties.”

**Update**: a group of french hackers while finally able to hack Chrome at this years Pwn2Own

The point I would like to make is that, while hacking for monetary gain or to take down competition is usually the wrong thing to do, these same skills can be used to help companies fix up and improve their products. Are there any other instances where hacking could be beneficial, as opposed to criminal? Or is hacking something that should be always be considered a malicious act, regardless of the hackers intent?

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Abbey said...

I think hacking is beneficial if it points out a hole in security for the company, especially if no monetary gain or theft is involved in the hack. The recent WikiLeaks from the company Stratfor’s email has revealed a huge hole in their security, which is concerning because the United States relies on them for certain security measures. When a hack points out a hole in security that is in charge of parts of certain national securities, I think it is absolutely positive. I agree that hacking has been given a stigma of always being negative, but I also do not agree with it. If nothing is gained and potential threats or holes are patched up, what’s the problem?

// 02/28/2012 at 9:52 pm

Allison said...

The idea that hacking provides positive feedback was the original intent of hacking as we saw in the early creation of the internet at its creation. Turner described that people would encourage their colleagues their colleagues to hack their programs in an effort to improve them. There was never any concern over who has the rights to the program. Just as Google is encouraging people to hack Chrome, the early programmers wanted others to help them find holes in their work. The idea remains the same–there is always room for improvement.

// 02/28/2012 at 11:14 pm

Kelsey said...

I don’t agree with everything Anonymous does, like posting someone’s personal information online for the world to see but for the most part their actions are just another form of protest. And protest, has never been something willingly accepted by the government and every attempt to make their actions illegal is taken. The government likes to censor and hide things, it’s the nature of the beast, and Anonymous works to make sure that us average citizens know everything.

// 02/29/2012 at 12:04 am