Obviously, the act of defrauding people for your own personal gain (usually monetary) would almost always be considered ethically wrong by most anyone; there is little sense, therefore, in investigating the ethics of con artists. Nonetheless, some hackers, informally known as “white hat hackers” or “ethical hackers”, muddy the waters of ethics by infiltrating systems for some ostensibly higher purpose. Often, they do this for a regular salary as part of an effort to “test” an entity's current security; they can then use the results of the test to suggest improvements.
Ethics of Experimentation & Ethical HackingEdit
The primary ethical concern of the aforementioned tests is that, while management might be aware of it, the subjects being tested must remain unaware of the test in order for the results to be accurate; they are essentially being thrust into an experiment without their consent or knowledge.
- This might be semi-justifiable from an Aristotelian perspective; the hackers have the good intention of helping a company's security improve, despite the risk of unintended consequences (an employee could be humiliated or even fired; the company's public relations may suffer).
- Because Kantian ethics is primarily concerned with intentions, the hacker's actions would become even more justifiable: the hackers are merely doing their duty.
- A utilitarian, however, could decry the inherent risks to people carried out by these experiments. The hackers may be bringing about some “good” but it comes with a potential price, a factor that the utilitarian model of ethics disdains
Ethics of Behavioral ModificationEdit
Some countermeasures require computer users to alter their behaviors which also raise multiple ethical concerns.
- Because the ultimate intention (to maintain the data integrity and security of an entity) is good, Kantian ethics might have no problem seeing users told to be more paranoid of their surroundings, or to live more cloistered lives.
- A utilitarian, however, might disapprove of the potentially damaging effects this new attitude could have on society (i.e. more cloistered livelihoods).