The phone hacking of the gunman responsible for the San Bernardino shooting has sparked a debate Nationwide on the ethics of having hackers work with national security agencies.
Apple refused to hack the phone in an effort to protect the data of their customer but the FBI found a way around it having an external consulting company do the job for them.
And so the question in the minds and mouths of many is: Should Hackers help the F.B.I?
Many still associate hackers to fraudsters and criminals; as anarchists and villains who use their immense technology savvy to break through the (fire)walls of government and corporations for their own benefit. And while we that there are some who deal with criminals and use their skills to exploit the cracks for their own profit, it certainly does not apply to all.
In fact, over the last couple of decades, hackers have become important allies to the government when it comes to digging out the real bad guys and bumping up cyber security.
And yet, despite their smarts, their drive for cracking an impossible puzzle and willingness to help, hackers are still not seen as mainstream and natural allies in maintaining the security of the nation.
There are those who advocate that the question needs to be reformulated. That it is not whether they should help or not but rather how they help that should be discussed by the public.
We are all aware that secure systems are becoming more important on a daily basis with so much of our life being online these days. Ironclad encryption is a must have for data security both for individuals and organizations.
This translates for the need to defend data security above all else. Priority one should be to identify and rectify vulnerabilities and security gaps.
One of the opinions on the topic is that government and hackers should be pooling resources and efforts together to protect citizens and their information.
What is often ignored about hackers is most are driven by curiosity and the desire to solve puzzles, solve what appears unsolvable. Many are passionate and care about the world they live in.
We know that the hacker that discovered holes in medical pumps did so because he himself had been a patient and had a desire to help.
However, hackers are still resistant to collaboration with the government. Perhaps they hesitate because they fear imprisonment, after all, under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1984, many of the hacking activities are illegal. There is also the fact that many disagree with some of the government’s activities such as mass surveillance and the F.B.I.’s tug-of-war with Apple over the creation of a into a gunman’s iPhoneback-door.
Should the government create a safe haven where hackers would feel comfortable and un-threatened to come forward with their discoveries in security vulnerabilities, there would certainly be plenty to gain for all.
A bug bounty program created by the government be an important exercise in recruitment of an important skill set that is currently lacking.
The F.B.I’s stance on computer security is that it is too good; that it is too easy for the bad guys to hide behind their encrypted computers and run amok. Or so they tell us.
But we know that this is not the truth. Computer systems are in fact far from too secure or infallible. It is necessary to point out that the same devices used by criminals are used by kids in high-school, housewives and small businesses, by ordinary people and they need and deserve protection of their data. Computers need to become safer, not the other way around. This is where hackers can contribute in a big way. Through constant stress tests and system hacking, hackers have the ability to build stronger, safer systems.
At the end of the day, we know that an ethical hacker has the ability and desire to help. Through close collaboration with national security agencies, hackers can be prove to be immensely helpful in security matters, especially when the goal becomes crime prevention