Opinion: Could hackers be the next heroes?

Albert Fisler is a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].

Albert Fisler

Hacking and information manipulation have been a part of the Internet since its birth 25 years ago, during which it has grown to become a source that most people, businesses and institutions have come to rely on.  

However, just like the physical world, the digital world is filled with pitfalls and danger. Hackers and other thieves online threaten the loss of information and security that can jeopardize any normal person who doesn’t share the same knowledge of Internet collateral and defense.  

There’s no doubt hackers have potential for destruction and inconvenience, to say the least. Just this week, WordPress had 162,000 of its sites manipulated into flooding another unidentified target website with hundreds of distributed denial-of-service, or DDoS, attacks that successfully shut the target website down, according to PCWorld.com.  

Mark Karpeles, owner of the MtGox Bitcoin exchange, had some of his personal accounts hacked as well this week. The hackers took information about the trading activity of MtGox and shared it in an Excel spreadsheet with more than one million trades. Information about MtGox’s back-office administration software was also shared, according to BBC News. This was more than likely in spur of MtGox’s bankruptcy announcement, due to $465 million being lost due to a security bug. 

According to BBC News, Edward Snowden, the former US National Security Agency, or NSA, contractor who fled the US last year after leaking thousands of documents that revealed his employer’s extensive surveillance programs, appeared at a Southwest Interactive conference on Monday, via video connection.

He told the conference of technology innovators surveillance was “setting fire” to the Internet, and “you guys are all the firefighters, and we need you to help us fix it.” 

Snowden then told the conference the systems currently available, if used by the general public, would make NSA bulk surveillance programs much more difficult.

Hacking in private use has become a technological skill, often used in competition between hackers. Hackthissite.org is a website fully dedicated to teaching and training people how to hack, as well as security tips on defending from possible hacks. 

According to the website, “Hacking should not be a privileged skill — everyone should have the opportunity to learn about computer security in the age of technology. We seek to facilitate a free and open training ground where people can test and expand their skills in a legal and realistic environment.”  

Hackthissite.org is aware of what hacking can be, and normally is, used for, such as theft or destruction, but still believes that hacking is a skill that should be taught for the sake of knowledge.  

Nevertheless, NASA has recently announced it will pay coders to help hunt and identify asteroids that may crash into Earth, according to BBC News. Perhaps conflict between criminals and authorities is beginning to shift into the Internet; this digital game of cat-and-mouse will continue for some time, but anyone who could use hacking or coding to help save the world from catastrophe would be a hero in my book.