Today’s information is highly interconnected by the Internet. With this interconnection of computer systems through the Internet comes computer crime. Breaking into computer systems, damaging information on computer systems, and stealing information on computer systems, more commonly known as hacking, has become extremely common on the Internet. As hacking becomes more frequent, and as some would say, more of a problem, should we consider hacking a criminal activity?
Information from across the world is stored on computer systems-most of which are connected, networked, to other computer systems through the Internet. In the ideal situation, this interconnection of information enables others from outside a specific computer network to access that specific computer network and its information. This has created a world in which information is extremely important and extremely easy to access, which in turn has created a government, business, and personal society that is dependant on and successful from the networked information.
But this network also has its drawbacks. Besides enabling people who need to use the information for legitimate business or personal use to gain access, the network also-often unknowingly-enables unauthorized people to gain access to the information in one way or another, no matter what kind of network security they have implemented. Gaining access to a computer system that does not intentionally allow you access is called hacking.
Hacking causes many problems for networked information. Hackers can change and damage information. They can sell information. They can destroy information. They can destroy the computer systems the information is stored in. It is estimated that hackers have caused between $145 million and $5 billion in damage to hacked systems annually in the United States (Skinner 1). The destruction or damaging of information is why it is important to determine whether hacking should be considered a criminal activity.
But along with hacking comes the terms to prevent hacking. Some suggest creating strict Internet laws that could be used to make and prove hacking a crime. Some suggest that the government sniff-a type of eavesdropping of the Internet-Internet traffic and monitor such things as e-mail. But both of these actions to prevent hacking, to make it a crime, also infringe on the privacy rights of everyone who uses the Internet. This is another reason why it is important to determine whether hacking should be considered a criminal activity, because if it is, it could affect a lot more people than just the hackers.
There are two primary sides to the hacking controversy: the hackers and the non-hackers. The hackers believe that what they are doing does not constitute a crime. One argument is that they provide a service to organizations by breaking into them. Specifically, by hackers breaking into an organization’s network, they are showing the organization what their security holes are so that they can fix them.
Hackers also believe that hacking shouldn’t be a crime because it is not the hacker’s fault if the organization does not have a strong security system for their network. Hackers believe that if they can get into the network, it is the organization’s fault, not their’s.
Hackers also believe that the Internet is free. They believe that the Internet does not belong to anyone. And for this reason, anything that is found on the Internet or on a network connected to the Internet is open to the public.
Hackers argue that if they can do it-break in to a network-they should be allowed to do it. Hackers take great pride in their computer skills and see breaking into a network as an intellectual accomplishment that few can do, so they should be awarded for it.
Non-hackers, whether they are government officials, businesses, or the general public, believe that hackers infringe on their privacy. They believe that hackers break in to their computers or computer networks and look at, change, destroy, and steal their private information.
Non-hackers believe that hackers are criminals. They are breaking into computer networks that contain private information. They liken it to a burglar breaking into a person’s house. Even if that burglar does not steal or destroy anything in the house, it is still illegal for them to be there.
Some of the non-hackers believe that the Internet needs more regulation to ward off hackers. But this is where the group of non-hackers becomes divided, because with more regulation of the Internet comes less freedom of the Internet, and, probably the most important result that divides this group, less privacy. With more regulation comes more policing, and with more policing less freedom and privacy.