At Heart, We Are All Hacktivists

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The internet is an accelerator pedal, and it is making almost everything go faster.

Just like a gas pedal, the internet is benign. Not a force for good or evil, but both good and evil now wage their battles online in the 21st century. It is our newest battle front. Just as the printing press vastly expanded the spread of ideas through books and enabled the Renaissance and Reformation, the internet is creating a new e-Renaissance in numerous areas.

As Americans, we worry about such hot topics as unemployment, wars overseas, rising levels of debt, local education and climate change. Yet, unless you’ve been the victim of cybercrime, or published a book online, you probably haven’t thought very much about how cyber-space is impacting your life, in both positive and negative ways.

Why Should Society Care About Cyber-Ethics?

Before I answer that question, I want to provide a few basic definitions: “Ethics are the rules or standards that govern conduct. How do I live my life and make my decisions?” Everyone has ethics. One of the best ways of thinking about ethics is to take a quick look at what you believe and then think about how you would react when those beliefs are challenged.

But to agree on ethics, we must agree on what is moral or the difference between right and wrong. So, if ethics is the study of behaviors and conduct and how what I believe affects how I live, then what is cyber-ethics?

In cyber-space, what’s allowed on your network? What do I actually do? Are your actions different online than offline? I think this is a vital topic in the 21st century because the norm is to have different ethical standards or boundaries for online life. I frequently hear, ‘It doesn’t count the same’ or ‘People do or say things online anonymously that they would never do face to face with someone in real life’. Also: Who can I trust online and offline? Why are they trustworthy?

While many think cyber-space is separate or not as relevant, our online and offline lives are rapidly merging together as never before.

Hacktivism and You

Hacking can be a good thing or a bad thing. There are white hat and black hat hackers, and plenty of data to show that hacktivism is a growing trend online. The future of hacking into the Internet of Things (IoT) won’t just be about dollars or identity theft.

A new world of hacking motives is starting to emerge—along with convenient, easy to use, tools for computer novices to do many dangerous things online.

Pulling This All Together

So what’s my point? We all have causes that we champion, both online and offline. We use the internet for different purposes, and new online opportunities are making more and more of us hacktivists—either at heart or in practice with new tools—even if we are not as tech-savvy as we would like to be.

So how can we start to get to workable solutions? Are there any meaningful answers in response? At the start, I expressed my view that the internet is like the accelerator in your car. If this is true, than cyber-ethics are the brakes.

Our brakes: help us maneuver through tough online turns; and help us understand how to reach the desired destination safely.

A teacher once asked a class: “Why do we have brakes on a car?” A bunch of children raised their hands. One person blurted out, “To slow down!” Someone else said, “To stop!” The teacher paused, smiled and said quietly, “We need breaks so we can drive faster without crashing. Brakes allow us to arrive at our destination safely and in one piece.”

The same is true of cyber-ethics. We need effective cyber-brakes when we go online. Cyber-ethics can inform and transform how we navigate through cyber-space.

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