This blog post spurred a pretty lively debate between my wife and me. I attempted to explain ethical hacking to her, my responsibilities to our son in encouraging his skills, and how ethical hackers help society as a whole. This is why I love Carey so much, though – she is the best sounding board ever and she loves me so much she puts up with my constant stream of consciousness.
BinaryBiker: I just blogged.
Carey: Reading the blog now…Very nice, although I still say it is not nice. He should play fair.
BinaryBiker: We have to encourage his initiative, intelligence, and drive – guide it and not squash it. He truly hurts no one with this.
Carey: Not hurt per se, but everyone should have a fair chance to play the game as it was designed. His rank will increase more rapidly than the others. LOL
BinaryBiker: No need to “lol” – I know you don’t approve. I thank you for supporting me, though, even if you don’t understand.
Carey: I absolutely like the creativity he shows. I am torn, though, that is why I “lol”
BinaryBiker: If he were focused on rank I would have an issue with what he is doing. He is doing it for the pure ability to be able to do it.
Carey: Yes, this is true.
BinaryBiker: It’s how I learned my computer and technology skills. At his age, you ALWAYS do it from a way to find advantage – usually for fun. I turned out ok, right? 🙂
He explores the limits of technology. It’s not about the other players for him, it’ s about learning the system, the boundaries , and what he can do to work around the system limitations. This is the type of thinking that makes a great technologiest
BinaryBiker: Remember the movie War Games? Where Joshua, the computer, has to play the game millions of times before he learns that the only way to win at thermonuclear war is to not play the game?
BinaryBiker: Well, the computer is in the movie a lot like a child. You can tell him the boundaries, spell them out for him. But he doesn’t really know or understand them until he tries them for himself. What we “intuitively” know is actually a learned experience. And it’s our job as parents to let our children find the boundaries safely.
Carey: Oh I get it. You are beaming, aren’t you?
BinaryBiker: (grin) When it comes to technology – it’s different, though. Right and wrong don’t apply in the way we think they do, traditionally. Let’s use Christopher’s “lag switch” on Call of Duty as an example. In the game it’s fair play – and he affected the fair play and created an unfair advantage for himself.
But the system or infrastructure that supports the game needs to be learned and understood. And the only way to do that is to play with the operating parameters; which affects everyone in the game. Catch my drift?
Carey: Yes I do. You don’t have to argue your point with me, honey.
BinaryBiker: I’m not arguing baby! I guess I feel strongly about this and want to share my view. Is that ok?
Carey: lol You know what I mean. Of course you can share!
BinaryBiker: Because I have one more point to make. Take a real-world scenario; the music studios put DRM on their CDs, making it so you can’t copy your own music for backup. The “rules” are set.
Is it right or wrong to break them? Is the hacker who broke the DRM good or bad?
Carey: I am torn with that as well.
BinaryBiker: OK – let’s take 1 last example.
Carey: lol OK………..
BinaryBiker: A department store collects credit card information online, but does a poor job of securing them. (they shouldn’t even store them at all, but that’s a debate for another time). A hacker , against the rules goes into the system, copies them, and shares them back with the department store saying “Look! I found a hole! You had better fix it.” Is he good or bad?
Carey: As long as he doesn’t use the credit cards he is good.
BinaryBiker: Why? How does THAT pass your moral filter? He broke the rules of the site. He abused the trust of web surfers and affected EVERYONE who uses the site, potentially. Somehow this hacker does good in your brain where the others do not.
Carey: No, I know he is doing wrong. But he also did good by not harming anyone
BinaryBiker: He did a bad thing for a good cause. Hmmm. The anti-hero. He broke the rules to expose a greater potential problem. So – can we consider it a moral OBLIGATION to ethically hack systems?
Carey: ahhhhhh! You are trapping me! I told you I am torn.
BinaryBiker: LOL I’m not intentionally trapping you, princess. But ask yourself this: how do ethical hackers learn their skills? They are certainly existing, by your own admission, on the fringes of right and wrong. Just as Christopher is.
I can’t make him not go there – that fringe. He is drawn to is, just as I was. If I push he will just go straight for the WRONG side of things. So I guide gently and help him make good decisions. I help him understand that with great power comes great responsibility (thanks Ben Parker).
Carey: lol. I love you.
BinaryBiker: I love you more!