Hacking can be facilitated in numerous ways; one of the most popular ways of accessing a system is from the distribution of malware and other computer viruses. These malicious software programs are spread throughout the internet, and often result from spam mail or websites. Once the software is downloaded on to a computer, personal files can be leaked, in addition to other activity, including locking the hard drive (common with ransomware that “requires” a payment to unlock it), using the CPU and/or GPU for cryptocurrency mining, and general spam to the user. As such, many opt to run an antivirus or anti-malware program on their computer, which passively and actively searches for security threats and quarantines (permanently deletes) them. This greatly reduces the risk of a successful attack. Additionally, as many viruses contain code that allows it to “replicate”, either by attaching itself to transferred files or emails or directly through a network to other systems, the risk of the virus spreading is also significantly lowered.
Malicious software relates to diseased trees or invasive species that, once the agent has found its new setting, begins to populate and take over. An example presented was if you come across an embarrassing or hateful video of someone (for example, involving an act of bullying, or personal photos), it is unethical to share the media with others, as it exponentially worsens the scenario for the victim.
It was discussed that computer viruses relate (unsurprisingly) to biological viruses in the way they are spread from one computer to another. Antivirus software is akin to vaccines. While many say getting vaccinated is ethically responsible to control the chance of infection for all (especially in young children and the elderly), it is not required by law. There are certain health scenarios where one cannot get vaccinated, and similarly, some computer systems that cannot run antivirus software, due to compatibility, performance issues, etc. A requirement like this might also be interpreted as infringing on citizens’ rights. Therefore, some say users have an ethical responsibility to keep their computers and other devices protected; infected computers are the vectors that the viruses spread on. Some networks, such as those at the workplace or university, require users have antivirus software installed and running. The choice of which software(s) is typically up to the network owner’s discretion.
However, a government mandating antivirus software comes with many complications. These include the process of choosing what antivirus software is allowed (which could lead to monopolization) and the unethical practices of the companies that are chosen in this requirement, with tactics like false advertising. Additionally, if hackers know what antivirus programs everyone uses, they will have a clear target for vulnerabilities and the subsequent attacks. Our collective ideas and opinions have amalgamated into a more informed idea of a growing, technological world. There are still aspects that we need to understand, but for now, we are more enlightened to the act of hacking and the importance of cyber-security.
In class, several topics concerning hacking were discussed that revolved around the legal aspects of it.
A specific case, involving a Kentucky judge seizing the web addresses of more than 100 gambling site was one of the main topics. Students were asked to provide 3 arguments for and against the judge’s ruling. Most of the arguments against the ruling revolved around the vagueness of the gambling laws in that state. Due to there being many variables that can be introduced, it would be very difficult to have a firm basis on enforcing those laws. One interesting point that was brought up was interstate travel. How would the law be enforced on someone simply driving through the state to get somewhere else, while using one of these banned websites? The possibility of travelers taking action with counter-lawsuits is very high due to that “loophole.” Another valid point that was brought up centered around action being taken on the residents of the states violating these laws, and not the company itself. Measures could have been taken in which access to the website could be limited based on your geographical location in the state. People could easily find ways around this limitation, which brings us back to the vagueness and difficulty of enforcing these types of laws.
Concerning the arguments in favor of the judge’s actions, one point brought up was the company itself restricting access to states with conflicting laws. As mentioned before, there are ways to get around this, but it would be a start in helping with enforcement of the law. Another point brought up involved the judge simply doing his/her job. Whether or not the judge agreed with the law should not impact the duty they were elected to perform. If the law in Kentucky states that a certain type of gambling is illegal, then it is the judge’s duty to act accordingly with the law in that state.
In conclusion, hacking can lead to a number of legal complications, and it is of paramount importance for software users to understand the extent of damage that can be caused by this type of crime in modern society.