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What do I define as Ethical? To me, ethical is equivalent to morally right. It can be thought of as the expression done when you consider the feelings of those who are or will be directly affected by your actions. Therefore, ethical behavior is to act in a way that is loving and respectful of the potentially affected person. Spafford uses a “deontological assessment” as his ethical system to consider and judge the computer break-ins; this assessment determines what is right by examining the process (action) over outcome (result). According to Spafford, another way to define ethical behavior is to ask: Would we view that act as sensible and proper if everyone were to engage in it? When paired side by side, Spafford’s definition of ethical behavior is one and the same in comparison to my definition where the action is the subject analyzed and if loving and respecting the potentially affected person is the sensible and proper thing to do if everyone engaged in it.
As the years go by, new technology is being developed and implemented. More and more companies upgrade their entire computer systems, computer professionals upgrade their skills, and database administrators become even more alert and responsive. Not to mention that all that advanced technology becomes increasingly complex and must come with solid security. I am suggesting that the security argument for a break-in becomes more and more obsolete especially 30 years from the publishing of Spafford’s article. In fact, it will be obvious that the perpetrator had unethical motives because he or she is intelligent enough to know that such technology must come with tight security which is obviously critically monitored; thus, the excuse for probing to find a fault is inapplicable.
Just as the security argument gets less applicable with the influx of new technology, the student hacker arguments loses its potency also. The first argument where student hackers claim they are doing no harm and changing nothing – they are simply learning about how computer systems operate has two major problems: disbelief from perspective and little education scope. The computer lab director (or whoever is in charge) is automatically inclined to think the worst possible scenario after hearing news that a student hacked into the new University network. From his perspective, he simply cannot trust the student’s word that no harm was done. A good example is that of a home owner who just heard a burglar broke into his home. He immediately thinks of the valuable assets such as the television, jewelry, kitchen appliances and other such items. The very unlikely assumption is that the burglar is actually doing him a favor by testing of the locks in his house whether it is functional or not. Furthermore, there is little education about entire computer system operations gained in hacking. I can concede the fact that the hacker may learn proprietary information but full scope education of computer systems cannot be achieved through hacking. The second student hacker argument outlines that computers are expensive, and that they are merely furthering their education in a cost effective manner may have a slight edge in the modern society where technology becomes expensive but ultimately fails for the reason explained earlier that full scope, fundamental education is not possible through hacking – particularly when the system is most likely complicated as it would be in futuristic times. The final student hacker argument where their creations [viruses] are intended to be harmless and that they are simply learning how to write complex programs is broken into two sub-arguments that I will analyze; I will start by addressing the second sub-argument. The second sub-argument may seem convincing in the fact that the student is “learning how to write complex programs” in an age where computer system are extensively complex, however, the entire argument fails when analyzing the first sub-argument. No company, institution, or individual cares if the virus was “intended to be harmless” because restoring the system is expensive. The economic factor in restoring system integrity of an already intricate system drains the entire argument of any influence.
The argument that hackers break into systems to watch instances of data abuse and to help keep “Big Brother” at bay already presents a reason that is reasonable at the publishing of Spafford’s article. This means that the argument gains a bit more credibility in the futuristic age where data abuse by corporations and government agencies will be almost rampant. One error of this argument presumes the hackers can prevent data abuse without offsetting network activities; secondly, the argument will always fail to provide comfort for any individual that his sensitive information is entrusted to hackers whose names are unknown. Even with the previously mentioned flaws, the social protector argument is relevant, at least considerable, in an age where even the simplest action of eating can be provided by robots.
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