Thursday, September 18, 2008

Sarah Palin - Hacked

If you haven't heard about the recent "hacking" of Sarah Palin's yahoo email account, I suggest you read it. It is actually quite interesting, and I think I will use it to talk a little bit about hacking.

The first thing I want to mention is the ethics of hacking. There are different types of "hackers" in the cyber world (For the benefit of my fingers and your reading pleasure I am going to use the term 'hacker' to describe one who utilizes their technology prowess to illegally alter or gain information from a source. Technically, this is called 'cracking'). The "good hacker" is known as a white hat hacker, a "bad hacker" is a black hat hacker, and a grey hat hacker is a mixture of the two. It is important to know about the different types of hackers when considering the 'ethics' of hacking.

When a young college boy hacked into Sarah Palin's email account, he was doing it for malevolent purposes, thus making himself a black hat hacker. He wanted to dig up some dirt on Palin, and this was his method of doing that. Obviously no one would consider what he did 'ethical'. But is hacking ever really ethical? White hat hackers often claim that what they do is ethical. They often will hack into a site or server and then report the security breaches to the owner of that site or server, along with suggestions on how to fix it. A prime example of this was MIT when they hacked the Boston Transit Systems electronic swipe cards. This may be 'ethical' to some people, but it is important to keep in mind that it is illegal regardless, unless you get the owners permission.

What I also want to mention quickly is the ethical use of Yahoo's email servers. Sarah Palin's account was easily 'hacked'. Basically, the hacker did some research on Google and used the password reset ability of Yahoo by answering the security questions correctly. For this reason, you must always be careful when using one of the anonymous email services found online, because you never know who may be able to gain access to your account.

The main point I am trying to make in this article is that you have to be careful and tread lightly. It doesn't matter if your 'hack' is simply redoing the password on someones computer. I've done that on my friends laptop before by using the Windows XP built in back door. I made the password "mikerules". Was it ethical? Yes, because he knew I was messing with his computer. I had his permission to try it. But if you EVER do anything like this then rest assured, chances are you will be caught unless you know what you are doing, and you know it well.

And for Christ's sake, after you hack the VP-hopeful, don't post about your deed on an open forum. That's just asking for you to be arrested.

As always, hack responsibly.

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